It came down to a single shot as junior curlers vied for a spot at the Arctic Winter Games trials while playing in the Territorial Junior Championships in Yellowknife earlier this month.
When the games wrapped Dec. 16, Yellowknife’s Team Naugler and Team Rogers were bound for 2020 Canadian U-18 championships in Sudbury, Ont. Fort Smith’s Team Kaeser and Team Bain of Inuvik, meanwhile, were headed to the U21 New Holland Canadian Junior championships.
However, when it came to Arctic Winter Games trials for the girls Dec. 15, a single rock closed the door on the Arctic Winter Games trials for Team Bain.
“I think it went good. It could’ve went better,” Tyler Bain, Team Bain’s coach, said. “The girls did good. They came in as prepared as they were going to be, and losing by one isn’t bad at all.”
In the lead up to the weekend, Team Bain practised three times every week, squeezing in games whenever possible. While this is Bain’s first year coaching the girls, he noted his predecessor put in a lot of time developing the team, so they already knew the basics.
He believed nerves played a part in losing the Dec. 14 match, leading to missed shots the team would normally make. However, he said the team was evenly matched with its opponents, Team Rogers, overall.
“They’ve always battled with this team, so we knew it was going to be a battle,” he said. “They’ve really stepped it up, so we’ve got to keep up in our game too at the same time.”
Moving forward, the team will focus on deliveries and fine-tuning its play. He said the close call will encourage players to further prioritize their practices and strategies.
“The shot that they were left with for the Arctic Winter Games final wasn’t an easy shot, so they gave it what they (had) and missed by just a little bit. They would have made that shot, they would have easily won that.
“It was the shot for the games. It came down to one rock.”
That said, he said Yellowknife offered a welcoming environment with home cooked meals and sportsmanship greeting the Inuvik team.
Team Rogers coach Brian Kelln, meanwhile, said the goal from the onset was to play well at territorials and make it to Sudbury. The team met those goals, he said.
However, the several matches comprising the Arctic Winter Games trials, followed by the territorial championships, “was hard for the girls,” he said, noting there was only a half-day break between them.
For example, the game the team lost on Dec. 14 was their “flattest game” because they were making mistakes they wouldn’t have made earlier. Though, by Monday, the team was rested and back in form, he said.
“We had one bad game where we had a couple misses, but our skip (Cassie Rogers) made a crucial hit and roll to go from the end, where we gave up three to just giving up one,” he said, saying the rest of the game was skillfully handled.
He said the team rarely dwells on negative aspects of a game and focuses on the positive aspects, parking the missed shots somewhere else and moving forward without negativity.
In the end, he said Team Rogers, being slightly younger than Team Bain, conferred with team members and decided to go the U18s, while Bain goes to the U21s.
He said he plans to refine the team’s game plan and manage its time, while being more aggressive on the ice as the team heads to its next tournament.
At the games, coaches were thankful for the sportsmanship on display during the matches.
Team Naugler coach, Tara Naugler, said overall the weekend’s matches had a supportive atmosphere.
“That what I liked about this weekend, regardless of whether it was a boys team or girls team, everyone was giving high fives to all the teams,” she said.