Men’s curling Hawks en route to playoffs
KELOWNA, B.C. — All year long, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s curling team had their sights set on a national Canadian Interuniversity Sport gold medal. After collecting silver and bronze the last two years and returning with the same squad, the Hawks have built themselves up to achieving this goal.
And currently with an overall record of 5-1, they have an opportunity to reach that goal and a berth to the 2017 Federation Internationale du Sport Universitaire Winter Universiade, held in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
But the Alberta Golden Bears stand in the way. The defending CIS champions, who only suffered a minor lineup change when Karsten Sturmay started throwing third stones, have dominated the university circuit.
“They are shooting the lights out in Kelowna,” head coach Glenn Paulley said Monday evening after day two of draws. “We will have to be at our best in order to get through them.”
The Bears delivered the Hawks’ only loss in the tournament so far with a 6-4 decision. When the Bears shoot, they rarely miss. But when they miss, the Hawks must capitalize on it. Paulley said the Hawks have to be completely sharp if they are to get through Alberta, the one obstacle that stood in their way of claiming CIS gold last year.
But if they look to be successful come Wednesday’s semifinal draw, the team must shake off slow starts.
Currently, the Hawks are unbeaten when they lead in the draw and do not relinquish that lead. But in the game against Alberta, the Hawks trailed early, allowing the Bears to set the tempo and only gave up singles throughout the rest of the draw.
But that also means figuring out the ice quicker, as the sheets are non-symmetric and change quickly.
“What works on one side of the sheet does not work on the other side of the sheet and that’s both in terms of curl and in terms of speed, so that’s been a challenge for the guys to figure out all week,” Paulley said.
The women’s rink was officially eliminated from playoff contention after a 9-4 loss to the Alberta Pandas on Tuesday afternoon. The team dropped to an overall record of 2-4 with one draw left Tuesday night. The rink struggled a lot adapting to the ice conditions and were on the wrong side of the inch.
“It was a tough week for all of us, we didn’t have our rocks in the perfect spot, the ice has been tricky for us to understand,” third-year skip Chelsea Brandwood said. “We had some close games and didn’t come out on the right side of some of them.”
Brandwood said all the sheets are different in the Kelowna Curling Club, it’s up and down and it’s really difficult learning the ice. The Hawks tried to get a handle on it, but it’s just taken a couple ends longer than the other teams, in which they punish the Hawks for it.
Head coach Jason Rice said the Hawks didn’t quite have the consistency, and aren’t on the right side of the inch either.
“Even in terms of a little bit of luck, it’s not quite going our way right now,” he said. “We have a shot for two and it picks.”
Brandwood said this year, the team wanted to get at least bronze or medal again, but having a new team is really difficult going into an event like nationals. Brandwood and Evie Fortier were the only players to return to the team this year, with Brenda Holloway and Megan Arnold joining the Hawks.
“All the teams are so hard and some of these teams have played together for a couple years,” she said. “Hopefully next year, with only losing one player, the team will come back even stronger and hopefully we can make it back to nationals.”
Even though the women’s rink was eliminated from the playoffs, the men’s team will play for a chance of a medal on Wednesday, March 23. The semifinal draw begins at 12 p.m. eastern, with the medal draw scheduled for 5:30 p.m. eastern.
You can follow along on Twitter via @cordsports or check out our live blog on thecord.ca.