Curling nationals begin in Waterloo
The OUA champion men’s and women’s curling teams will host the national championships
The final destination on the university curling circuit has finally arrived. 16 of the top curling teams in Canada will battle for the chance to sit atop the highest pinnacle of university curling, right here in Waterloo.
Divided by eight teams per gender, they will be fighting for the chance to win the ultimate prize: the coveted Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) gold medal.
“The whole team is excited. It’s a good feeling going into nationals on a high note after accomplishing our goals through the OUA championship,” said Jason Rice, head coach of the Wilfrid Laurier University women’s varsity team.
“Seeing that the majority of this team was at CIS last year, they are really looking forward to a second crack at it.”
CIS nationals will showcase top talent from coast to coast. Skip Kelsey Rocque from the University of Alberta will be coming to town, aiming to add CIS gold to her list of hardware. Rocque is coming into the tournament after defending her titles as a Canadian Junior and World Junior champion.
Meanwhile on the men’s side, the up-and-coming rink from Dalhousie University received a national berth due to Quebec deciding not to participate this year.
In addition, the Atlantic University Sport champion — University of New Brunswick skip Josh Barry — represented Prince Edward Island in the Brier and played third for Adam Casey. Evan Lilly, University of Toronto’s skip, will be looking to defend his national championship this year.
According to the Laurier men’s varsity coach Glenn Paulley, Josh Barry’s rink and Dalhousie’s rink — skipped by Marc Gordon — will present a challenge to the team.
“We don’t have any experience playing against John [Newhook]’s players, and that’s our first game so Dal is a bit of an unknown,” he said.
Laurier has no shortage of depth either. Skipped by Aaron Squires, the men’s varsity curling team has three players with Ontario Tankard experience, including lead Fraser Reid and second Spencer Nuttall.
On the women’s varsity team, vice Kerilynn Mathers made her first appearance at the Ontario Scotties this year while lead Chelsea Brandwood represented Ontario in the Canadian Juniors last January, where she played against Rocque in the championship final.
“This is a very talented field. There are no easy games,” Paulley said, when asked what matches his rink will be focusing on. “We are going to have to play at our best in order to qualify for playoffs.”
Both Laurier rinks will be looking for a strong finish again this year in their home club. Last year each team captured the bronze medal and they are looking to medal again.
“We feel like we would compete quite well against the other teams,” Rice said. “As long as we perform the way we should be in terms of our performance goals going into it, we feel that we should have a great opportunity to medal.”
Paulley is also envisioning the same goal. With all four athletes returning from last year, the goal is to meet or exceed last year’s result.
“For several of the players this is likely going to be their last year of university curling, so this is going to be a fantastic cap on their university career if we can get to the podium at CIS,” Paulley said.
The action begins March 18 at the Kitchener-Waterloo Granite Club, with the first draw beginning at 8 a.m.