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Monday, Sep. 24, 2018
The curling kids and their crazy schedules
by Randy Pascal

For the likes of Jacob Horgan, Kira Brunton, and other local curlers of their age bracket, the concept of a busy curling season appears to hold no boundaries.

How else to explain the glut of local young talent, generally between the ages of 16 and 22 or so, that are appearing in a variety of different events, almost on a weekly basis.

Having already run the gamut of the junior ranks in 2017-2018, advancing right through to nationals once again as the vice for the Tanner Horgan skipped team, younger sibling Jacob is finding his schedule typically compressed, yet again, these past few weeks.

Last weekend, the 17 year old Lockerby Composite senior teamed up with Brunton to capture gold in the Mixed Doubles event at the 2018 Ontario Winter Games in Orillia, a competition to which he and many other curlers are only just beginning to acclimatize themselves to.

“It was a huge adjustment, mostly on the sweeping front,” said Horgan. “As for strategy, it was a little different the first couple of rocks. After that, you treat it like just a normal curling game, and with the experience that Kira and I have, we adapted really well to that.”

“But the biggest adaptation is sweeping, getting up to sweep my own stones, not having two sweepers on every rock. I wasn't able to give it as little as I might with two sweepers.” And, of course, there is the whole element of the mixed curling scenario, a setting which carries with it somewhat interesting dynamics, at least for Horgan.

“We both wanted to win as much as we would any other game,” he said. “We wanted to play our best, just like juniors or U18s or what have you. But I definitely couldn't play with the same intensity that I would have with my brother. For Kira to play her best, I don't think that same intensity would have worked well for her. I had to dial it back a little bit. Maybe that's not a bad thing, maybe that helped me out too,” he added with a laugh.

No sooner had the glow of the Games worn off than Horgan was hitting the road, leaving for New Liskeard and the NOCA U18 Championships, currently taking place at the Horne Granite Curling Club. Horgan returns his entire roster of Max Cull, Nicholas Bissonnette and Shane Robinson this year, the same foursome that captured gold at nationals last spring, as the U18 was added to the Canadian title mix for the very first time.

“I don't think there's any extra pressure,” said Horgan. “If anything, it brings confidence in knowing that we can play really, really well. We just have so much more experience between the four of us that we have this year compared to last year.”

And while it can be said that curling is curling, the talented teen does acknowledge that moving from his familiar role of vice skip, with his brother throwing final stones, to now being the one in the house, almost continuously, can throw him a curve-ball, at times.

“It's pretty different, a completely different role,” said Horgan. “I don't have as much time to lose focus in the games. Playing vice, there are times throughout the ends where I can kind of lose focus and take a breather. But skip, you kind of have to go, go, go all the time – you never stop thinking.”

This version of “Team Horgan” are off to a nice start, sporting a record of 3-0, with the Jonathan Hince rink from Kapuskasing close behind at 3-1. “We're playing pretty well,” noted the skip. “We're catching on to the ice really well, we're getting on to the ice way faster than we did last year.”

“There seems to be kind of a logjam between the rest of the teams, they're all kind of beating each other and losing to each other. It's making for a really tight competition here for the rest of the teams.”

UPDATE #1: Since the time of the Saturday column, the Jacob Horgan led crew have now successfully defended their Northern Ontario title, stopping Malcolm O'Bright of North Bay 11-3 in the final.

Over on the girls side of the draw, Kira Brunton has aged out, meaning that her remaining teammates who matched the Horgan crew by winning gold at nationals in Moncton in 2017 have added another familiar face to the mix.

The Curl Sudbury troika of Sydnie Stinson, Kate Sherry and Jessica Leonard have added Abby Deschene to the fold, with the squad currently sitting at 3-1, a record they share with Mackenzie Jolicoeur of Stratton (up near Rainy River in the northwestern corner of Ontario).

The chase for gold will be an interesting one, as the Idylwylde Golf & Country Club rink of Bella Croisier, Jamie Smith, Lauren Rajala and Piper Croisier have enjoyed an outstanding season, and are sporting a flawless 4-0 mark through five draws of action. Finals take place on Sunday, with both winners moving on to compete at the 2018 U18 Canadian in beautiful St Andrews, New Brunswick.

UPDATE #2: There will be additional Sudbury representation at the U18 nationals. As of the time of the posting of this story to the website, Team Stinson currently leads Team Croisier 4-3, with four ends in the books.

Finally, there is one other NOCA playdown on the go, with five tandems gathering in Atikokan this weekend, site of the Mixed Doubles provincials. From a local perspective, the field is an intriguing one. Sure, there is no great surprise to see Amanda Gates in the mix, the gregarious long-time member of the Tracy Fleury squad partnering with Trevor Bonot of Thunder Bay in search of a berth at nationals in Leduc, Alberta.

More surprising, however, is the family connection she will encounter. Among the teams that Bonot & Gates will cross paths is the Gates/Gates pairing, none other than Brian and Sue Gates (Amanda's parents). This is sure to make for a wonderful interview upon their return to Sudbury, so be sure to stay tuned in next week's column.

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