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NCUCC curlers around every corner at 2024 Junior Nationals

Fort McMurray (Alberta) recently played host to the 2024 New Holland Canadian U21 Men’s and Women’s Curling Championships – an event which included no less than three separate teams representing the Northern Credit Union Community Centre (NCUCC).

On the men’s side, both Team Rajala (Brendan Rajala; Jackson Dubinsky; Jesse Crozier; Adam Wiersema) and Team Deschene (Ian Deschene; Olivier Bonin-Ducharme; Brayden Sinclair, Connor Simms) would finish round robin play with identical records of 3-5, tied for sixth place in their pool along with British Columbia #2.

The Northern Ontario gold medal winning rink skipped by Rajala struggled to gain traction early, beaten by both Manitoba #2 (Jace Freeman – 6-2) and Alberta #2 (Timothy Marin – 8-2), before hitting the win column with a 7-6 victory over Prince Edward Island (Jack MacFadyen).

From there, a see-saw between wins and losses – a game four 7-5 loss to Nova Scotia #1 (Calan MacIsaac); 8-7 win over British Columbia #2 (Alex Duncan-Wu); 9-4 loss to Ontario #1 (Kibo Mulima); 9-3 win over Team Deschene and 9-2 loss to Alberta #1 (Kean Wipf) – was simply not enough to earn a top three playoff berth.

As for Deschene and company, their start to the week was much better, upending both British Columbia #2 (8-5) and Prince Edward Island (7-6) while playing in the same pool as their NOCA co-horts. But a pair of very close losses – 7-6 to Alberta #1 and 8-7 to Alberta #2 – were part of a 1-5 run to end the week and a seat outside the playoff field, looking in.

The last of the three entries, Team Toner on the women’s side (Mia Toner; Britney Malette; Justine Toner; Clara Dissanayake) managed to overcome a tough start, offsetting setbacks to Alberta #2 (Claire Booth – 9-7) and the Northwest Territories (Kali Skauge – 7-6) by getting past both Newfoundland & Labrador #2 (Sarah McDonah- 8-3) and New Brunswick #1 (Melodie Forsythe – 9-8).

Unfortunately, that would be the last time the locals would taste victory as Alberta #1 (Emma DeSchiffart – 7-2), Nova Scotia #2 (Cassidy Blades – 8-7), Newfoundland & Labrador #1 (Cailey Locke -11-4) and Ontario #1 (Julia Markle – 9-4) all knocked off the Northern Ontario quartet, in succession.

The sole local entry at the NOCA Mixed Provincials in Kakabeka Falls this week, Mike Assad and his Idylwylde rink of Abby Deschene, Jamie Childs and Mackenzie Daley are just a game away from securing the A draw berth in the playoffs following wins over Charlie Robert (7-5) and Dylan Johnston (8-3).

The Idylwylde crew will face Kory Carr from Thunder Bay on Friday night at 7:30 p.m., but could still qualify either via the “B” or “C” berths for play on Sunday.

And finally, a note to signal the off-season of curling as the first of the lineup changes involving local rinks was announced just days ago as the trio of Megan Smith (vice), Jamie Smith (second) and Lauren Rajala (lead) return to Northern Ontario, joined by skip Emma Artichuk for the 2024-2025 Open Women's season.