There’s no question Team Galusha had the season of their lives in 2021-22: playoffs at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, winning on the World Curling Tour, and that run at Winter Olympic qualification.
So what’s a group of ladies to do after a season like that? You raise the bar higher.
Kerry Galusha and her rink of Sarah Koltun, Margot Flemming, Jo-Ann Rizzo, and coach/fifth Shona Barbour are gearing up for the new season and it all gets underway in Edmonton on Sept. 9 as the NWT curlers are set to play in the Saville Shootout. The plan, according to Galusha, is for everyone to meet up on Thursday in the Alberta capital.
Getting ready for the new season means hitting the ice to prepare. That meant getting whatever ice they could because the ice isn’t installed at the Yellowknife Curling Centre yet. Galusha and Rizzo were getting in some throws in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont., while Flemming and Barbour have been on the ice at the Multiplex, working on sliding and getting back into the swing of things.
“We’re all just doing what we can before the start,” said Galusha. “We had a dream season last year and I don’t know how we’ll top it. We’re just going to stay consistent, be better used to our roles on the team, and hope we can build on what we did last year and try to do even better.”
The ladies have seven scheduled events this season. Following Edmonton, they will be off to Fredericton for the PointsBet Invitational, a new invitation-only bonspiel put together by Curling Canada. Team Galusha received their invite based on their current ranking on the World Curling Team Ranking System and they’ll begin play on Sept. 22 versus Casey Scheidegger of Alberta. It’s a single-knockout event, meaning one loss at any point and that’s it, but there is some very good prize money up for grabs with the winners earning as much as $50,000.
“We’re really excited to be going to that,” said Rizzo. “Being part of the top-12 (ranked teams) that got invited, we’re honoured to have been chosen, and we’re going to go and give it our best.”
After that, the ladies plan to venture onto the Grand Slam of Curling circuit to play in the Tour Challenge in Grande Prairie, Alta., in October. Thirty men’s and women’s teams will be in action with two tiers of groupings: the top 15 on the World Curling Team Ranking System will be play in the top tier with the next 10 teams playing in tier two, with five regional invitations given to teams within the province or region.
Galusha said things are looking good that they will be there with no problem.
“We’re 21st in the world right now and we need to be in the top-30 to get in,” she said. “There’s the regional invite and we could get in that way, but I’m hoping we’ll get in on our own. It gives us more games on arena ice and that’s important if we get to go to the Scotties (Tournament of Hearts).”
There are stops planned in Kemptville, Ont., Red Deer, Alta., and Brantford, Ont., before the Christmas break and then it’s back into it with the NWT Women’s Curling Championship in Inuvik in January. The ladies will go into that event as reigning champions, so to speak, by virtue of being declared the winners following the cancellation of the 2022 event due to the Omicron wave of Covid-19. A win in 2023 and it’s back to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, happening in Kamloops, B.C., this coming February.
Should the ladies be the NWT representatives again, Rizzo said the new goal is to go deeper in the playoffs.
“Everything we’re doing before playdowns is all about getting consistency,” she said. “We want all the skills to be there before Christmas and, if we go to the Scotties, we want to build on the last one and that’s getting past the first playoff game.”
In total, that’s six cash spiels and the territorial championship guaranteed, and it adds up to what Galusha describes as one of the busiest seasons ever.
“It feels like it’s early, but we started early last season,” she said. “It feels really good to get back out on the ice — we did a lot of prep work over the summer and we’re all excited to get back at it and see what happens this season.”