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Ever so close to unblemished marks at U18 nationals
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But for a shot here and there, both of the local curling entries could easily be sitting at 3-0 heading into the ninth draw of the 2022 Canadian Under-18 Boys and Girls Curling Championships at 5:30 p.m. tonight in Stratford.

As it stands, both Team Toner (Mia Toner, Valérie Ouimet, Justine Toner, Clara Dissayanake) and Team Rajala Brendan Rajala, Ian Deschene, Kyle Vainio, Jesse Crozier) have acquitted themselves well to date, the girls at 2-1 and the lads at 1-2, with both setbacks in extra ends.

Opening their pool play against Alberta #2 (Claire Booth) on Monday, the Toner rink led 4-3 heading into the eighth and final end before surrendering two to the westerners.

Faced with a very tough schedule to start, Toner and company rebounded to pick up a 5-4 extra end win over Ontario #1 (Charlotte Johnston) of London, up 4-2 after five and victimized for a steal of one in the eighth, but coming right back to take the win with the hammer in nine.

Time will tell if the Curl Sudbury girls really hit their stride in game three but a 9-3 triumph over New Brunswick #1 (Celia Evans) is clearly encouraging. With the game deadlocked at 2-2 after three, Team Toner nabbed a deuce in both four and five and put things away with a three-spot in the seventh end.

The NOCA champs will face Zoey Terrick (Manitoba #1) on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., before enjoying a day off on Wednesday and closing with two on Thursday.

As for the Rajala quartet, the parity at this level was evident right out of the gate as the Sudbury foursome dropped a 7-5 decision in extra ends to Nick Mosher of Nova Scotia (#2), but evened their record at 1-1 with a come from behind 7-4 win over Ryan Ostrowsky (Manitoba #2) later in the day.

Team Rajala were down 4-2 after five, but pulled even with two in the sixth and took control with a steal of three in the seventh. On Tuesday morning, the team battled from 6-3 down after six, forcing the extra end before falling 7-6 to the Alberta #1 rink skipped by Kinley Burton.

For their part, Team Rajala prepares to meet Rajan Dalrymple (New Brunswick #1) at 5:30 p.m. and then does double duty on Wednesday - Prince Edward Island (Isaiah Dalton) at 8:30 a.m. and Saskatchewan #1 (Matthew Drewitz) at 4:30 p.m. - before taking Thursday off to wait and see how the dust settles in their seven team pool.

Both Toner and Rajala must crack the top three in their pool to move on to championship flight play, those consolation action will see all teams continue to curl well into the weekend.

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