Men’s Curling finish near-perfect season as national champs
The Wilfrid Laurier Men’s Curling team is back on top of USPORTS as they went into Manitoba this past week and were undefeatable in play at the national championship, going on to capture the third Curling Canada Championship in program history.
Coming off of last month’s OUA Championship, their fourth provincial title in the past six years, the Golden Hawks had a remarkable five days of play at the USPORTS Championship and capped off one of the best seasons in program history with yet another finish atop the country.
“We came in with an expectation of getting playoffs and knowing that we could accomplish that, we stayed motivated, set forth the right work ethic and everything we did this week worked out well,” Head Coach Matt Wilkinson said after the final game.
Wilkinson, who coaches both the men’s and women’s curling teams at Laurier, has built consistent and successful teams throughout his time here. He had already won three provincial championships in the past three seasons, winning two with the men and one with the women, and now in his fourth year, Wilkinson has captured his first national title.
The team relied on their experience and motivation as they battled some of the best young curling teams in Canada. The round-robin play started last Wednesday, where Laurier battled out the Guelph Gryphons in what was a rematch of the OUA semi-final game last month.
Laurier stole points in the last couple of ends and won their opening game. This was a sign of good things to come, as the Golden Hawks, over the course of three days, won all seven of their games in round-robin play to finish as the top seed heading into the playoffs.
The team, led by skip Matt Hall, formed of vice John Willsey, second Jordie Lyon-Hatcher, lead Graham Singer and alternate Adam Vincent all played an integral role over the course of the season.
The team was led this past week by their experience as both Hall and Willsey were a part of the men’s curling team that won the national championship four years ago and Lyon-Hatcher was a part of the provincial championship squad three years ago.
However, over the past week in Portage La Prairie, the team received contributions from all their players, developing dynamic chemistry that led them to an undefeated week of play and a National Championship.
“Those four guys as well as Adam along their side, have gelled and it really got us to where we are today,” Coach Wilkinson said of his team’s performance.
The Golden Hawks took their 7-0 record into the playoffs and were matched up once again with the Guelph Gryphons in the semi-final game. Although leading in the first few ends, the Gryphons were no real challenge to the Hawks – Laurier took over in the last couple of ends and won to advance to the National Championship game against the Dalhousie Tigers.
With another impressive win over the rival Gryphons, Laurier finished 4-1-1 in the season against Guelph winning their last four games, two of which were semi-final games in the provincial and national championship tournament.
In the gold medal game, the Golden Hawks put together a three-point second end and stole two more points over the next couple of ends. Laurier put themselves in good position, as they led wire-to-wire and won 8-5 over Dalhousie, to finish the week with a perfect 9-0 record, finishing their season with a combined 26-3-1 record.
The Golden Hawks were dominant all year as they won 14 games in a row to finish their season, a stretch that included winning 20 of their past 21 games, having only lost to Carleton early February.
Skip Matt Hall was proud of his team’s performance in the gold medal game. “I think it went pretty much exactly [how] we had planned. We tried to force them in that ninth end, and we knew that if they got two, we were still going to have a chance to win it,” Hall said.
“It was a battle and we remained positive throughout. I think that is all you want, that opportunity to have that last rock in your hand with a chance to win the game,” Hall continued.
Hall curled a near-perfect gold medal game, knocking out the last Dalhousie stone in the tenth end to capture his second USPORTS title with Laurier.
With the championship now under their belt, the Golden Hawks men’s team will have the opportunity to represent Canada at the 2021 FISU Universiade that takes place next January in Switzerland.
“We strive for excellence, medals and banners at Laurier – that is one of our mottos and it is nice to bring another banner home. It is huge for the program!” Coach Wilkinson said.
Matt Hall, John Willsey and Jordie Lyon-Hatcher were all named first-team All-Canadians after their outstanding performances over the week. Wilsey was also named Laurier male athlete of the week as well as the OUA athlete of the week.
The curling program at Laurier has long been recognized as one of the most successful and consistent among Canadian universities. Over the past five years, the men’s curling team has won four provincial championships and now has secured two national championships after an incredible season and an undefeated week in Manitoba.