Curlers exceed goals at nationals

photo courtesy of Curling Canada Julie Squires-Rowe, left, and Zoey Walsh of Hay River watch the action during the Canadian Junior Curling Championships in Victoria, B.C.

photo courtesy of Curling Canada
Julie Squires-Rowe, left, and Zoey Walsh of Hay River watch the action during the Canadian Junior Curling Championships in Victoria, B.C.

A junior women’s curling team from Hay River had two goals heading into national championships as representatives of the NWT.

“Our goal was to win at least one game and keep scores close, and we won two games,” said skip Zoey Walsh.

The team – also featuring third Julie Squires-Rowe, second Nicole Griffiths and lead Katherine Lenoir of Enterprise – beat Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nunavut.

“We’re all pretty pleased with that,” said Walsh in a telephone interview with The Hub from Victoria, B.C., where the Canadian Junior Curling Championships were held from Jan. 21 to 29.

The team first beat Newfoundland and Labrador 7-5, and then edged Nunavut 10-9.

“It felt really good. We were all really happy,” said Walsh. “They made us work for it. They were close games.”

The results were a big advance for the team, since the same team – except for Griffiths – had played at the national tournament last year when it was held in Ontario and failed to win a game.

The NWT representatives also set a goal of keeping games closer than last year, and they also accomplished that.

Lenoir said the tournament was quite enjoyable, and involved lots of learning and lots of fun.

“To surpass what we had as our goal was really, really great,” she said. “We were all really happy when the last rock came down the ice and it was like, ‘Whoa. Really? We just did it!’ And we were all celebrating and it is a great memory to have.”

Returning home with two wins means a lot to the team, added Lenoir. “It kind of gives us this team spirit or this sense of confidence.”

One of the impressive things about the team’s improved performance is that they had nowhere to practise in Hay River because of the ongoing rebuild of the Don Stewart Recreation Centre.

Noting that most of the games were close, Lenoir said that with more practice she believes the team would have been more difficult to beat.

“But I think we did good enough this year,” she said. “Surpassing our goal was great.”

Squires-Rowe was also pleased with the team’s performance.

“We were definitely growing by each game, learning new stuff,” she said.

Griffiths, the new member on the team, enjoyed her first trip to the national competition.

“I was really nervous about the games and how much more skill most of the teams had,” she said.

Now that the competition is over, Griffiths feels she learned a lot as a curler.

The NWT team finished with a two-and-seven record.

Coach Trudie Walsh, the mother of the skip, is proud of the team.

“Everybody played well,” she said. “We accomplished our goals.”

Walsh said the team also accomplished its goal of keeping scores closer.

Like Lenoir, the coach also believes the team performance was impacted by lack of practice time because of the rebuilding of the rec centre.

“If we had more practice, definitely we could’ve done better,” she said. “At least given some of the better teams a better run for their money.”

She noted that, going into the tournament, some of the other teams had played about 60 games this season, while the Hay River team had played only six.

The team had to travel two and a half hours to Fort Smith and two and a half hours back for about three hours of practice.

Walsh also noted the team was still the youngest at the tournament, just like last year.

Lenoir is 16, while the three other curlers are just 14.

They were competing against teams mostly made up of curlers aged from 18 to 21 years.

“If the team can stay together and keep working hard then there should be more good things to come,” said Walsh.

In the junior men’s section of the tournament, the NWT was represented by a team from Fort Smith – skip Sawer Kaeser, third Tristan MacPherson, second Joe Sturgeon and lead Garret Minute. That team was coached by Nick Kaeser.

At the conclusion of the tournament on Jan. 29, the men’s championship was claimed by British Columbia and the women’s title was won by Alberta.

–Paul Bickford