Laurier wins double gold in men’s and women’s curling

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GUELPH, Ont – Picture this: the Wilfrid Laurier men’s and women’s curling teams go undefeated during round robin play at the Ontario University Athletics curling championships. Both teams win first place in their pool and earn a quarter-final bye to go straight into the semifinals. They win their semifinal games and earn a berth to the gold medal game set for that afternoon. Both sweep the gold medal games and earn double gold in back-to-back years.

It sounds perfect. A storybook ending.

And Laurier made it a reality.

The women’s rink beat the Brock Badgers 6-4, while the men’s squad beat the Waterloo Warriors 10-1, defending their provincial championship and bringing the OUA banner back to Laurier.

“Can’t really ask for better, can you?” head coach Glenn Paulley said. “Certainly for the guys, the guys have been on a mission all season. This has been playing out the story like the guys had planned it.”

The men’s final opponent was familiar. The Waterloo Warriors won their semifinal game to set up a rematch of the battle for first place — except this time, a gold medal was on the line. In a draw that had the potential to go as long as their round robin meeting, the Hawks came out to a flying start when they took four points in the third end to grab a quick three-point lead.

They never looked back from there, capitalizing on the Warriors’ mistakes and stealing six points in the next two ends to take a commanding 10-1 lead after five ends.

Handshakes.

“It’s definitely pretty special. It doesn’t happen very often. It was our goal coming in and we’re pretty proud to make it happen,” fifth-year skip Aaron Squires said on winning back-to-back gold medals at the OUA championship.

The men’s rink, consisting of Squires, vice Richard Krell, second Spencer Nuttall and lead Fraser Reid, all came back for one more year after earning Canadian Interuniversity Sport silver at nationals hosted by Laurier last year. After being put together four years ago, the team has grown tremendously together, becoming friends on and off the ice.

“We’ve all played with each other in the past, but now we are truly a close group,” Squires said. “We enjoy each other’s company and we’ve just gotten stronger and stronger and learned every possible thing about each other.”

“It’s special to be a part of, it really is,” he continued.

Squires and Reid were also named OUA first-team all-stars while Nuttall picked up second-team all-star honours.

After cruising to a 7-1 victory against the Western Mustangs in the morning semifinal draw, the women’s rink battled the Brock Badgers for the gold medal. The Badgers, who held a 6-1 record during round robin play, proved to be a tough challenge for Laurier. The game remained tight, with both teams tied at three points going into the fourth end break. After trading singles the next two ends, third-year skip Chelsea Brandwood broke through and picked up a double to take a 5-4 lead going into the final end.

And with the Hawks sitting on a one-point lead without the hammer, dramatics ensued.

Brock’s skip, Terri Weeks, missed her last two shots and gave up a steal, securing the Hawks fifth OUA championship in six years.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” Brandwood said. “We did it last year, and I’m so happy to be part of the team and do it again this year. Proud of the boys, proud of our team, for going undefeated, both of us. Just a great week overall.”

Brandwood said keys to going undefeated was the dynamic of the new team this year, as well as staying positive and believing in each other’s abilities to play like they can. Rounding out the rink this year alongside Evie Fortier who returned to play second, was Brenda Holloway, who took over vice duties, and Megan Arnold at lead.

The entire women’s team swept OUA first-team all-star honours.

“A little bit of a different story for the women, with the turnover that we had, we had a lot of confidence in our female players, there’s a lot of experience there,” Paulley said. “The last two months, they really pulled it together and they played fantastic this week.”

But the job’s not done yet.

The victories in the semifinals earned each team a berth to the national championship, held in Kelowna, British Columbia. The rinks could face tough competition, especially from schools out west like the University of Alberta, who swept CIS gold last year. Nonetheless, Brandwood believes if the Hawks keep playing like they did this week, they could be in the medal games.

Squires is also motivated to improve on the silver finish.

“That’s what we’ve been working towards all along,” he said. “We had a good chance last year and Alberta just came out and played really well. We’re hoping to put ourselves into that situation again and hopefully this year we’ll come out on top.”

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