Both Kira Brunton and Jacob Horgan will enjoy the opportunity to represent Northern Ontario at the New Holland Canadian Juniors again this January, though both will do so with drastically different lineups than in 2019, with both teams encountering their share of challenges at the NOCA playdowns in Hearst this past weekend.
For Horgan, who has compiled a cross Canada team of Scott Mitchell (Whitby), Mitchell Cortello (Halifax) and Chase Dusessoy (Winnipeg), the intrigue did not present itself until the championship final.
The Curl Sudbury representatives navigated their way to a 4-0 record in the double round robin event, sweeping past Nick Lemieux (Community First - SSM) by scores of 5-3 and 9-3, and doing likewise with the Kakabeka Falls rink skipped by Jonathon Vellinga (5-1 and 6-3).
With Team Vellinga taking two from the Lemieux quartet, Horgan and company still appeared to be in great shape midway through the gold medal encounter, scoring four in the fourth end to grab a 5-1 lead.
Even a 6-3 lead heading into the eighth end appeared to be safe, until the northwestern Ontario curlers scored two with the hammer, and followed that with a steal of one, sending the teams to the 10th end, tied at 6-6.
From there, Horgan would secure his seventh consecutive trip to junior nationals, but first without older brother Tanner at his side, edging Vellinga 7-6 for the win.
Like Horgan, Brunton is teamed with three different players than was the case last January, as Lindsay Dubue, Calissa Daly and Jessica Leonard step in to fill the shoes of the troika of Megan Smith, Sara Guy and Kate Sherry.
And where some NOCA observers fully expected a showdown between Brunton and the Bella Croisier rink from the Idylwylde Golf & Country Club, things did not play out that way, at least not entirely.
In fact, the Sudbury three team field that included the Brunton squad from Curl Sudbury (above), Team Croisier (Jamie Smith, Emilie Lovitt, Piper Croisier, Lauren Rajala) and the Curl Sudbury entry of Abby Deschene (skip), Alyssa McVittie (vice), Zoe Valliere (second) and Emily Brock (lead) all finished double round robin play deadlocked with identical records of 2-2.
With the pre-event draw to the button competition sorting out the order, Brunton and Croisier met in a tie-breaking classic (Team Deschene had a bye to the final), with the defending champion skip edging the defending national U18 champs 5-4 in an extra end.
Dodging that bullet, Team Brunton looked ready and confident in the final, pulling away from the Deschene foursome and registering a comfortable 9-4 victory, ensuring their spot alongside the Horgan quartet, donning the green and gold in Langley (B.C.) from January 18th to the 26th.