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Juniors underway in Sorel-Tracy

The 2010 M&M Meat Shops Canadian Juniors, presented by AMJ Campbell Van Lines, got underway Saturday afternoon in Sorel-Tracy.

It marked the first time since 1993 that these championships have been hosted by Quebec.  Trois-Rivières staged the Juniors seventeen years ago, when won by Nova Scotia’s Shawn Adams and Ontario’s Kim Gellard.

This year, thirteen men’s and 13 women’s teams began the battle for Canadian titles, with the winners earning the right to present Canada in March at the World Junior Curling Championships in Flims, Switzerland.

Canada has won a leading 16 world junior men’s titles since 1975 and eight women’s crowns since 1988.   The last time Flims hosted the World Juniors in 2003, Canada’s Steve Laycock and Marliese Miller won gold medals.

Round robin games are being played at Colisée Cardin and Club de Curling Aurèle-Racine, with the finals scheduled for January 24, live on TSN.

Defending men’s champion Prince Edward Island, skipped by Brett Gallant of Charlottetown, got off to a good start, beating Newfoundland and Labrador (Kelly Schuh of St. John’s), 8-4.

Gallant won last year’s championship in Salmon Arm, British Columbia before earning a silver medal at the World Juniors in Vancouver.

The 19-year-old is making a record-tying sixth appearance at the Juniors, equalling Brad Gushue’s mark, and with today’s victory, tied Quebec’s Martin Crête for most number of career wins as skip, now at 41.  He could set the record in tonight’s 9:30 pm draw when facing New Brunswick.

In other men’s action, Saskatchewan (Braeden Moskowy of Regina) bested Northern Ontario (Christian Tolusso of Thunder Bay), 6-3, while New Brunswick (Josh Barry of Rothesay) edged neighbour Nova Scotia (Scott Garnett of Halifax), 5-4.

On the women’s side, Northern Ontario (Kendra Lilly of Sudbury) defeated Saskatchewan (Trish Paulsen of Saskatoon), 6-3, with steals of one in the eighth end and two in the 10th, Nova Scotia (Tara LeGay of Bridgewater) also stole her way to an 8-6 win over New Brunswick (Jessica Daigle of Saint John), swiping singles in the ninth and 10th ends, while Prince Edward Island (Sarah Fullerton of Cornwall) handled Newfoundland and Labrador (Jen Cunningham of St. John’s), 7-4.

Play continues with draws at 5:00 pm and 9:30 pm Saturday evening, followed by three-draw days from Sunday through Thursday at 10:00 am, 2:30 pm and 7:00 pm ET.

After Friday’s final two round robin draws at 8:00 am and 12:30 pm, the first place teams advance to their respective finals, while the second and third place teams meet in semi-finals on Saturday, following any required tiebreakers.

Since the first Canadian junior men’s curling championship in 1950 in Quebec City, Alberta has won a leading 15 titles. Quebec can boast three wins, by Denis Marchand in 1980, Michel Ferland in 1992 and most recently, William Dion in 2008.

Edmonton’s Kevin Martin, though, is the only skip to win both a junior title (1985) and a Brier title (1991, 1997, 2008, 2009).

On the women’s side, Saskatchewan is a 10-time winner since the event began in 1971 in Vancouver, while Quebec’s Marie-France Larouche is the host province’s only champion, in 1999 in Kelowna.

However, a number of skips have also gone on to win the Scotties as a skip…Cathy King (Borst), Alison Goring, Julie Sutton, Jennifer Jones and Kelly Scott (MacKenzie).