So far, so good for the boys curling team at the Arctic Winter Games in Fairbanks, Alaska.
The team skipped by Logan Gagnier evened out their record at 1-1, thanks to a 9-4 win over Nunavut on March 17. The win came on the heels of a 9-2 loss to Alberta North the day before.
Gagnier said it was a case of not being 100 per cent used to the ice at the Fairbanks Curling Club.
“We’re used to the heavy ice we have back in Hay River and ice that curls a lot on one side,” he said.
“We had to adapt and it didn’t quite work out the way we wanted.”
The boys were down 4-2 at the fifth end break against Alberta North and still in with a genuine chance to win. But steals from the opposition in the sixth and seventh ends spelled problems and the steal of three in the eighth end was the eventual nail in the coffin and Gagnier ended up shaking hands.
Cordell Gagnier said the eighth end just wasn’t simply a good one at all.
“We weren`t making our shots and kept on messing up because the ice was so tough,” he said.
The encounter with Nunavut went a lot better but they were aided by a team which was clearly struggling with shot selection and shot calls. The big end for the NWT was the fifth, where they scored three and put Nunavut in a giant hole at the break, 6-1. From there, the boys played conservatively and, while they gave up steals down the stretch, they forced Nunavut to shake hands after nine ends.
Logan Gagnier described the ice here as “keen,” which is curling terminology for big curl, and he said that means he doesn’t have to aim with plenty of ice because the rock will eventually drift the way it’s meant to.
“You do have to keep your weight down a lot,” he said.
“The higher the weight, the straighter it will go.”
Paul Delorey is the coach for the boys team and he said the goal for the week is to do the best they can but the medal round is the ultimate goal.
“Some of these teams they haven’t seen before,” he said.
“They have to be on their game with every team they meet. But the medal round is where we want to be and we’ll see what that brings.”
Curling was one of three sports which began on Sunday but the big show, the opening ceremony, got things going on Monday.
All eight teams marched in in full uniform in front of a raucous and loud crowd of more than 5,000 people, one of the larger attendances in recent memory. Veronica McDonald of Fort Smith had the honour of being the territory’s flag bearer.
Doug Rentmeister, chef de mission for Team NWT, said it was one of the better shows he’s ever seen.
“I would go so far as to say it was better than some of the Canada Games I`ve been to,” he said.
“There was no second-guessing whatsoever when it came to where we were supposed to go or where the athletes had to be. It was all real easy to follow.”
Team NWT has 354 participants, the third-largest contingent behind Yukon and Alaska.