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Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018
Sudbury curling content Canada-wide
by Randy Pascal

It’s early February, which means it’s also “cross-over” time in curling circles.

No, not as in the “cross-over” games in which the Tracy Fleury Northern Ontario women’s team was partaking earlier this week, although that is certainly important in its own right (more on that, in a moment).

Moreso cross-over, as in that particular time of the season where curling events are crossing over one another left, right and center. It’s not all that hard to see the signs on a local level, or at least with local teams.

In Penticton (B.C.), Fleury and her Idylwylde Golf & Country Club rink of Crystal Webster, Jennifer Wylie, Amanda Gates and Jenna Enge overcame an 0-2 start at the 2018 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, maneuvering their way into the championship pool with a round robin record of 5-2.

Winning eight of their last nine outings helped Fleury and company secure a top four placement, starting their podium run off, in earnest, with a 3 vs 4 battle with Mary Ann Arsenault and her Nova Scotia rink.

No sooner does the Scotties wrap up than Northern Ontario curling eyes turn to Little Current, site of the Travelers NOCA Men’s Provincial Championships, which begins on February 7th at the NEMI Recreation Centre.

Manitoulin native Jordan Chandler has been pulling double duty, helping out to some extent with the organization of the event, all while also skipping his team of Sandy MacEwan, Luc Ouimet, Lee Toner and Kyle Chandler into the competition, one of eight top end men’s rinks who will be part of the festivities.

Understandably, the curling showdown is a source of great pride to Chandler, certainly no stranger to NOCA provincials. “For the curlers, it will be very similar to other provincials,” he admitted. “But I’m most excited to see the fans’ reactions when they walk into that arena and see it as a curling rink for the first time. A lot of people won’t have experienced that.”

In fact, based on the information that is readily available, it seems that one has to make their way back to the 1980s to find an era when the hockey facility was last converted for the greater good of curling. In those days, it was an annual summer bonspiel that would give reason to the overhaul.

While likely the entirety of the eight team draw have curled on arena ice at some point in their careers, this is the first time that such a venue has been tapped for an NOCA playdown. And though this may create an even greater advantage for the Olympic gold medal winning team of Brad Jacobs, Ryan Fry, E.J. Harnden and Ryan Harnden, owing to the monumentally larger volume of arena ice experience that they enjoy over the remaining competitors, Chandler and his group in Little Current felt strongly about the need to create a near ideal elite curling experience.

“The rocks are probably the most important, and we have rocks coming in that have been generously donated by Canada Curling Stone,” said Chandler. “It’s a clean slate for everybody, because nobody has used them. We are expecting a lot more curl than in a club setting. There will be a need for greater anticipation on sweeping calls with more curl, more finish on the rocks.”

“Just reading the ice, more than anything, and buying into where the broom is, will be key,” Chandler continued. “We made a point of going to tour events this year where we knew there would be “swingy” ice.”

In Ouimer and Toner, Team Chandler can boast of a front-end combo that have already attended a pair of Brier curling championships, in 2009 and 2005, both times with skip Mike Jakubo. His participation in Northern Ontario playdowns now into double digits, Ouimet returned to competitive curling roughly a year ago this time, after stepping away from the sport to focus on family and work following the 2010 campaign.

Understandably, he is now chomping at the bit to get started next week. “We’ve been preparing all year for this, so we’re really looking forward to it,” he said. “Our whole year, we’ve been resilient. Every weekend, we found a way to qualify, or make something out of nothing.”

On a personal level, no great surprise that time away from curling has changed his mindset, just a smidge. “I think I have more patience than I did when I was younger and can handle a little more adversity than I did in the past,” said Ouimet with a smile. “When I have a miss, I can refresh from that a lot quicker.”

In a field of this quality, maintaining an even keel is sure to be critical. “Every team that is here has been to the playoffs in men’s provincials, except for (Tanner) Horgan, and I think any day now, they will be in a playoff,” suggested Chandler. “There are fewer teams signing up now, but the field is getting stronger.”

As for the hometown favourites, there is an air of confidence in talking to the Little Current skip. “We had a good start to the season, and then hit a bit of a lull, where we didn’t qualify in a couple of events,” recalled Chandler. “We got some kinks ironed out. I think we have all the tools. We feel like we are on an even plane with everyone else – we just have to perform.”

Rounding out the field are:

Colin Koivula (Fort William) – Brennan Wark, Jordan Potts, Mark Adams
Dylan Johnston (Fort William) – Mike Badiuk, Cody Johnston, Travis Showalter
Charlie Robert (Community First – SSM) – Dan Mick, Clint Cudmore, Marc Barrette
Tanner Horgan (Curl Sudbury) - Jacob Horgan, Nicholas Bissonnette, Maxime Blais
Matt Dumontelle (North Bay Granite) – Jeff Brown, Gavan Jamieson, Bobby Ray
Dustin Montpellier (Copper Cliff) – Eric Gelinas, Cody Tetreault, Matt Gordon

This past week also marked the conclusion of the inaugural season for the Sudbury Elementary Curling League. Grabbing top spots in their respective pools were St Charles College – Intermediate (Pool “A”) and Confederation Secondary School - Intermediate (Pool “B”).

St Charles College – Logan West, Jack Gouchie, Jordan Cantin, Tristan St Germain

Confederation – Emily Labelle, Nathaniel Randell, Cora Scott, Gabriel Laurin, Lochlann Munro, Mackenzie Munro, Amelia Clark, Tristan Henry

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