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Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018
News off the ice, action on the ice
by Randy Pascal

A free agent frenzy has hit the elite curling scene in Canada. Far be it for Sudbury folks to be left out in the cold.

While the start of a new four year Olympic cycle often signals the bursting of the dams when it comes to player movement in the sport, this particular wave seems to run far deeper than most.

As many as twenty or more of the top teams from both the men's and women's side of the draw, primarily in this country, but with a ripple effect on an international level, are looking at revised lineups come the start of the 2018-2019 season.

As noted in a previous column, with her team taking a break from the competitive ranks, skip Tracy Fleury has picked right up where Kerri Einarson left off, sliding directly into the lineup of the Manitoba rink that also includes Selena Kaatz (vice), Liz Fyfe (second) and Kristin MacCuish (lead).

Earlier this week, the shuffling extended to the junior ranks – sort of. It seems as though the addition of Woodstock native Mark Kean (29 years old) to the Tanner Horgan roster that will compete in Men's Open events might well cause the junior edition of the team to be re-jigged as well.

Both Jacob Horgan (now second) and lead Maxime Blais remain with the Horgan men's rink. The only unanswered question is whether Nicholas Bissonnette sticks with the junior crew that have become mainstays in representing Northern Ontario at the Canadian Junior Curling Championships.

According to Horgan, the attraction of bringing Kean to the fold, in addition to the obvious experience of the former Brier skip, lies in the approach that the 2012 Canadian Open of Curling semi-finalist brings to the sport. “The one thing that really appealed to us in bringing Mark on the team is that you could easily sense his passion for curling,” stated Tanner Horgan. “He likes to practice, just for the sake of practicing.”

While the off-ice news has been interesting, things have not slowed down a whole lot in these parts on the ice. Posting a record of 4-3 in Pool “B” action at the 2018 Mixed Doubles Curling Championship in Leduc (AB), the Northern Ontario entry of Sudbury native Amanda Gates and Trevor Bonot of Thunder missed out on the playoff round by just a singular win.

While their four victories were impressive, not one by a margin of less than three points, a pair of single point setbacks at the hands of Ashley Groff/Kyle Doering (MB – 6-5) and Kadriana Sahaidak/Colton Lott (MB – 5-4) would ultimately prove to be their undoing.

Meanwhile, up in Nipigon, ten teams are vying for the right to represent the NOCA at the 2019 Canadian Brokerlink Mixed Curling Championship in Winnipeg in November. The contenders are competing in a triple knockout format, with one qualifier from each of the “A”, “B” and “C” draws moving on to the playoff round on Sunday.

There will be at least some Sudbury representation when the event narrows to just three teams later this evening. The Trevor Bonot rink of Jackie McCormick, Mike McCarville and Angela Lee-Wiwcharyk secured the "A" slot with victories over Nathan Lohnes (6-2), Mike Assad (7-5) and Zach Warkentin (8-5).

Snaring the "B" berth in the semi-finals was the Jordan Chandler quartet, which sees Sudburians Sara Guy and Sandy MacEwan, and northwesterner Tracy Auld joining the local-ish skip. Team Chandler dropped an extra-end 6-5 decision to Warkentin in game two, but kept their playoff hopes alive with an extra-end win of their own (6-5) on Friday afternoon over Jordan Potter (Port Arthur).

No slowing down the crew representing the Little Current Curling Club, which tripled the Charlie Robert Sault Ste Marie contingent 6-2 on Friday night, and secured a playoff berth first thing Saturday morning, getting the better of Warkentin (9-4) in the rematch.

As for the Warkentin rink from Thunder Bay (Fort William CC), which includes Sudbury's own Kira Brunton, as well as her junior teammate Kate Sherry (from North Bay) and Kurtis Byrd (from Thunder Bay), the young guns are still clinging to their "C" possibilities, pitted opposite Assad in the Saturday night affair.

Finally, the Bella Croisier U18 rink of Jamie Smith, Lauren Rajala and Piper Croisier could not have asked for a much better warm-up for their age group nationals which kick off Monday, April 9th, in St Andrews, New Brunswick.

The Idylwylde Golf & Country Club representatives walked off with top honours at the U18 Players Championship in Guelph last weekend, the final event in the Junior Slam Series for this age bracket. Team Croisier posted a record of 3-1 in round robin play, creating a four way tie for top spot in the playoff seedings with Emily Deschenes (Manotick), Rachel Steele (Port Perry) and Sarah Gierling (Guelph).

Earning the second playoff slot via the various tie-breakers, the Northern Ontario girls bounced the Emily Vivier (Nepean) crew in the quarter-finals (6-1), before outscoring the Steele squad 7-2 in the semis. The end result would be a match-up with the talented American rink skipped by Leah Yavarow (Minnesota), with the Sudbury quartet prevailing 6-4.

The Jacob Horgan foursome of Horgan, Max Cull, Nicholas Bissonnette and Shane Robinson, which will join Team Croisier on the east coast this weekend, came up a little short at the Players event, posting a 3-3 record in preliminary round action, but eliminated with a 6-0 loss to Ryan Abraham of Nova Scotia in the round of eight.

As for the Canadian U18 Championship, both Northern Ontario entries are in action in draw one Monday evening, with the Croisier crew battling the Manitoba entry skipped by Emma Jensen, while Horgan and company trade shots with Ryan McNeil Lamswood of Newfoundland.

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