Curling Alberta hosted its U20 provincial championships late last month in Cochrane, Alta., and you may be wondering why this has anything to do with the NWT.

Simple — three NWT curlers were involved with it in some way, shape or form.

The men’s event featured Sawer Kaeser of Fort Smith and Adam Naugler of Yellowknife playing with skip Beau Cornelson and the rink out of the University of Alberta-Augustana (UAA) in Camrose, Alta. The foursome ended up making the playoff round but fell to Edmonton’s Johnson Tao in the quarter-final on Feb. 26, 8-2.

Naugler said it wasn’t the best game the team had ever played.

“We didn’t have a great feel for the ice in that game,” he said. “We were chasing them for a lot of the game.”

It was a triple-knockout format, meaning each rink had three chances to get into the playoff round. Cornelson’s rink won their first two games on the A side but lost their A qualifier, bumping them down to the B qualifier. They would get into the final eight thanks to a 7-5 win over James Ballance of Okotoks.

The quarter-final started with a blank in the first end before Tao drew first blood with a single in the second end. The third end was blanked but Tao took control in the fourth by stealing three to go up, 4-0. Cornelson would get two back in the fifth to cut the lead in half, 4-2, but Tao would get a single in the sixth, followed by a steal of one in the seventh and another steal of two in the eighth, which was enough for Cornelson to shake hands and concede.

This was the first time Naugler had the chance to experience a provincial championship and he said the biggest difference between playing here and in Alberta is the level of play itself.

“There are so many more great teams down here,” he said. “It’s so much different from just playing Sawer all the time — it’s still friendly but the competitive aspect is much different.”

Tara Naugler had the chance to coach the UAA women’s team, skipped by Josie Zimmerman, in the same event. They failed to make the playoffs, losing three straight in the A qualifier, and while it wasn’t the week the ladies wanted, coach Naugler said they held their own as a team for the first time.

“This was their first time together playing as a foursome, so we just wanted to take it one game at a time,” she said. “They did have one game which, unfortunately, got away from them but curling is a game of inches and sometimes, it doesn’t go your way.”

Naugler isn’t the full-time coach for the team — she’s a substitute coach and did so for the second time this season at the provincial championships — and said there was a chance conversation between her and the regular coach.

“He was new to the team and he was asking me if I wanted to come on board and help out,” she said. “I went down in November to coach the line-up and they asked me to come back (for provincials).”

Something else coach Naugler liked seeing when she was down there was the different approaches to the sport in another place.

“One thing we’re doing here in the NWT is after every end, we get to have a quick debrief with the team for one minute,” she said. “In Alberta, they do something similar except the coaches are actually on the ice surface and they can call a one-minute timeout per end. The coaches monitor that minute and once you talk to them during the timeout, you can’t talk to them again until the next end.”

While coach Naugler is done for this season with the girls team, the boys are still plugging away and came within one game of being crowned the provincial college champions in Camrose, Alta., this past weekend. Naugler’s rink ended up with silver after dropping a 5-2 decision to Red Deer College on Sunday evening. The result qualified the foursome for the Alberta Junior Curling Tour Players Championship next month in Calgary.

Naugler will also be heading to Oakville, Ont., in May to join Jullian Bowling’s outfit at the Canadian U18 Curling Championships.

James McCarthy

After being a nomad around North America following my semi-debauched post-secondary days, I put down my roots in Yellowknife in 2006. I’ve been keeping this sports seat warm with NNSL for the better...

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