And so ends one of the longest curling seasons in recent memory.
But it got done and the last order of business came courtesy of the youngest group eligible for a national championship.
The Canadian U18 Curling Championships wrapped up in Oakville, Ont., on May 7 with the NWT’s boys entry hailing from the Yellowknife Curling Centre. Jullian Bowling and his rink of Adam Naugler, Shawn Dragon, Tasir Bhuiyan and Ian Gau finished with a total record of three wins and five losses over the course of the week, the final win coming against Prince Edward Island in the C playoff bracket.
Tara Naugler, the team’s coach, said it was one of the best performances her boys have put forth.
“It came down to one shot here and there in a couple of our games,” she said. “We could’ve beat Ontario, we had our moments against Quebec. We just needed to capitalize a bit more when we had the chance.”
The boys began pool play on May 1 lost their opening two games before finding their stride and beating both of Newfoundland and Labrador’s outfits by scores of 7-3 and 7-5 respectively. That put them in the middle of the pack and a genuine shot and climbing up the leaderboard. Two narrow losses to Ontario 2 (6-4) and Manitoba 1 (8-7) meant they would enter the playoffs in the C bracket but it could’ve been a lot different.
“We were inches from playing in the B pool,” said Naugler. “We had our opportunities to get higher up but it was a strong field. If you think about our jurisdiction, they played really well and I know they’re solid curlers. We know we can compete at this level and it’s all about belief.”
The boys would square off with Quebec in their first playoff game, which ended in a 12-8 loss, but Naugler said it one of those back-and-forth games.
“We got three, they would get three, we would get another three, they scored four,” she said. “By the time we got to the last end, we were playing to steal and we went for broke.”
Quebec would end up scoring five to seal the deal but the NWT would end on a winning note by downing Prince Edward Island.
The U18 event was played for the first time in three years and suffered perhaps more than any other national bonspiel. It’s been postponed twice, cancelled twice (including this year’s original site of Timmins, Ont.) before the provincial and territorial association told Curling Canada to make the event a priority.
In summing everything us, Naugler said the week was reflective of what kind of season it was.
“We all had to adapt to changes and it was like that for everyone,” she said. “It was a long season — we had no ice for the entire month of April and so the two practice sessions we had before our first game was the first time on ice since the (Yellowknife) club closed. It made for some interesting curling in Oakville but the other teams were in the same boat we were.”
With the business of on-ice curling now done, Nick Saturnino, president of NWT Curling, said it’s now time to focus on the off-ice business for next season.
“We have our spring planning meetings coming up in June,” he said. “We’ll decide where our championships will be and survey our athletes to get an idea of how they felt everything went this year. Next season, we have Arctic Winter Games, U18s and Canada Winter Games almost in one shot so it’s another busy one.”