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And they’re off…at the M&M Meat Shops Canadian Juniors

The 2011 edition of the M&M Meat Shops Canadian Juniors got underway Saturday in Calgary, as 13 men’s and 13 women’s team vie for national honours.

Round robin games are being played at the North Hill Community Curling Club and the Glencoe Club, with the finals slated for next weekend. The winners will then represent Canada at the World Juniors, March 5-13 in Perth, Scotland.

Team Newfoundland and Labrador at the 2011 Juniors(Photo: Vern Jones)

In one of the opening draw men’s matches between Newfoundland/Labrador and Nova Scotia, it was the Colin Thomas rink from St. John’s which emerged a 6-5 extra end winner over Kendal Thompson’s Halifax foursome.

Down 4-2 after six ends, Thomas, making his second appearance at the M&M Meat Shops Canadian Juniors after going 6-6 in Sault Ste. Marie in 2008, rallied his troops for the victory, taking one in the seventh, then stealing singles in the eighth and ninth ends, before Nova Scotia forced the extra with a single.

In the 11th end, Thomas calmly removed a Nova Scotia counter with his last stone for the win.

“It’s my goal every year to come back (to the nationals),” said the 19-year-old Thomas, a Commerce student at Memorial University of Newfoundland. “It’s unfortunate that the last two years the Schuh team (Kelly and Cory) has been better than us. The one brother (Kelly) aged out this year so we picked up Cory (who plays third).”

On the Atlantic Canada battle this afternoon, “We were down early, then started making shots.”

Admittedly, it’s a long week, but it’s always good to start off with a win.

“I’d love just to be in the playoffs, just get to the playoffs and see what we can do from there,” continued Thomas, the son of Brier veteran skip Jeff Thomas, who also coaches the team. “Just go in with a positive record.”

Other scores at the North Hill saw Quebec men and women emerge winners over Northwest Territories. Vincent Bourget of Baie Comeau beat Colin Miller of Yellowknife 10-4, while Alanna Rutledge of Montreal shellacked Taryn Williams of Yellowknife, 15-0.

Prince Edward Island women, skipped by Sarah Fullerton of Cornwall, clipped New Brunswick’s Jennifer Armstrong of Fredericton, 8-5, while New Brunswick men (Jon Rennie of Fredericton) edged PEI (Spencer Pitre of Charlottetown), 9-8.

In the other game, Nova Scotia women (Lindsay Doucet of Chester) won a tight one over Newfoundland/Labrador’s Erin Porter of St. John’s, 8-7.

Over at the Glencoe, the host province representatives got off to impressive starts. Nadine Chyz of Calgary defeated Northern Ontario’s Kendra Lilly of Sudbury, 9-3. Lilly finished third, while Chyz was fifth, at last year’s M&M Meat Shops Canadian Juniors in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec.

In men’s, Colin Hodgson of Calgary proved an 11-4 winner over Northern Ontario’s Cody Johnston of Thunder Bay, the 2009 runner-up.

In other women’s games, Manitoba’s Breanne Meakin of Winnipeg, who won the 2009 Canadian Juniors as lead for Kaitlyn Lawes, opened with a 9-6 decision over Ontario’s Clancy Grandy of Waterloo while Saskatchewan’s Trish Paulsen of Saskatoon, fourth place finisher last year, defeated Yukon’s Sarah Koltun of Whitehorse, 12-5.

In other men’s action, Manitoba’s Sam Good of Stonewall upended Ontario’s Mat Camm of Ottawa, 8-4, while Saskatchewan’s Braeden Moskowy of Regina, last year’s third place finisher, beat Yukon’s Thomas Scoffin of Whitehorse, 8-3.

Round robin play continues with Draw 2 at 5:30 (North Hill) and 6:30 pm (Glencoe), followed by three draws on Sunday. From Monday through Thursday, it’ll be two-draw days at both clubs, after which the first place teams advance to their respective finals, while the second and third place teams meet in semi-finals.

The women’s semi-final is Saturday morning at 10:30 am, with the final at 5:30 pm MT, live on TSN. The men’s semi-final is Sunday morning at 10:30 am, with the final also at 5:30 pm MT/7:30 pm ET, also live on TSN.