Every team wants to start off a season on the right foot.
For Team Wainman out of Inuvik, they not only started off on the right foot, they brought back some hardware at the same time.
The U15 rink of Reese Wainman, Alex Campbell, Brooke Smith and Whitney Kasook, along with coach Nick Saturnino, are back home following an 11-day road trip through Alberta, where they played in a couple of bonspiels and got in some training sessions with very experienced curlers.
The odyssey began earlier this month as the girls competed in the Cochrane Curling Club’s U15 Junior Spiel from Nov. 5 to 7. The NWT players lost all of their games in the round-robin, relegating them to the consolation round, but that’s where they turned things around. They would win both of their consolation playoff games, finishing with an 8-2 triumph over Sophie Abbs of Alberta.
Saturnino said the girls didn’t look out of place at all and could have won at least two of their round-robin games.
“They were the better team in their first game but lost it on the last rock,” he said. “They lost their second game in an extra end and had one bad end in their third game, but they won both of their games in the consolation.”
The consolation championship win was a bit of revenge for Wainman as it was Abbs who beat her in the opening contest.
From there, it was off for some training sessions with Andy Jones, a coach from the U12 High Performance Centre in Calgary. The NWT contingent then made their way to Edmonton to work with Laura Walker, who skipped the Alberta entry at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts this past February, winning a bronze medal. Following that, the girls had a sweeping session with Brad Thiessen, who plays second on Brendan Bottcher’s team, the same rink that won the Tim Hortons Brier this past March in Calgary.
The second bonspiel for the girls was the Lacombe U15 Open in Lacombe, Alta., where they once again started off in a round-robin pool format on Nov. 12. They would finish with a record of one win and two losses in their pool — the lone win coming against Sierra Wyatt of Alberta, 9-3 — but they would advance to the playoffs as the second-place team by virtue of winning the tiebreaker: a draw to the button.
After that nail-biter, the girls went into the semifinal on Nov. 14 to take on Peter Hlushak of Alberta and beat him, 7-1 — stealing six points along the way — to move into the final to face Nate Burton, also from Alberta. After giving up a single in the first end, Wainman struck back in the second with a five-spot to take a 5-1 lead. She would then steal singles in the third and fourth before Burton got one back in the fifth. Three more for Wainman with the hammer in the sixth end was enough for Burton to shake hands and concede the title to Wainman.
“The girls woke up on the right side of the bed that day,” said Saturnino. “They executed the game plan in each game to a T and they all played really well.”
Saturnino gave his players a couple of days off upon their return to Inuvik, but they were back in action on Nov. 17.
“These girls are out on the ice around 10 times a week and that’s where Covid-19 really helped us out,” said Saturnino. “Lunch hours at (East Three Secondary) are 90 minutes long and one of the parents asked if they could go to the rink and practice at lunch.”
All four girls, along with a couple from another team, are out there for at least 20 minutes every day, the coach added.
They have a busy schedule this season with the next big event being the NWT Women’s Curling Championship in their backyard in January. That’s where they’ll get the chance to take on Kerry Galusha of Yellowknife. They’re also planning on making the trip to Hay River for the NWT U21 Championships and the Rock The Rings event in Yellowknife, both in February, followed by the 2023 Canada Winter Games trials in March.
For now, Saturnino said they’ll savour the success they had in Alberta.
“It’s a huge win for them at such a young age and it doesn’t happen often to a team from the NWT,” he said.