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Northern Ontario hanging tough at 2015 M&M Meat Shops Canadian Juniors

CORNER BROOK, N.L. — The relief on Tanner Horgan’s face was obvious late Tuesday afternoon at the Corner Brook Civic Centre.

Northern Ontario's Tanner Horgan picked up a big win over P.E.I. on Tuesday. (Photo, Amanda Rumboldt)

Northern Ontario’s Tanner Horgan picked up a big win over P.E.I. on Tuesday. (Photo, Amanda Rumboldt)

A day after a crushing defeat to the Yukon at the 2015 M&M Meat Shops Canadian Junior Curling Championships — the result of having his last-rock takeout attempt catch some debris — Horgan’s Northern Ontario team from Sudbury was on its last life, facing Prince Edward Island’s Tyler Smith and needing a win to keep any semblance of a playoff hope alive.

Mission accomplished. The young Northern Ontario team — skip Horgan is 16, third (and brother) Tanner Horgan is 14, second Connor Lawes is 18 and lead Maxime Blais is 16 — rolled to a 7-0 win over the Islanders, and will play in the second of two tiebreaker rounds on Wednesday morning — part of a six-team logjam to determine the final two berths into the eight-team Championship Round. Northern Ontario finished 2-4 in Pool B, tied with P.E.I. (Montague) and the Yukon’s Joe Wallingham (Whitehorse), while in Pool A, Nova Scotia’s Matthew Manuel (Halifax), Ontario’s Mac Calwell (Belleville) and Newfoundland/Labrador’s Greg Smith (Stephenville) also finished 2-4 to set up the tiebreaker situation.

The top three teams in each pool, plus two teams with the next best won-lost records, advance to the Championship Round for a further four-game partial round robin from Wednesday through Friday, with their earlier records carried forward.

Meanwhile, the six teams of each gender that don’t qualify for the Championship Round meet in a Seeding Round to determine ranking for the 2016 Canadian Juniors in Stratford, Ont.

“Yeah, I guess you could say it was a must-win,” agreed a smiling Horgan, who opened the scoring with a fifth-end deuce, then stole one in the sixth, a crushing three in the seventh and one more in the eighth to prompt handshakes. “We keep getting better; 2-and-4 is not really showing what we can do. Every team is good here, and if you don’t show that slight step above what you know you’re capable of, you lose, you don’t get the breaks.

“We’re still alive; we can still improve, we can still take another run at it, and that’s the good thing.”

Northern Ontario will await the winner of the first-round Pool B tiebreaker today at 7 p.m. (all times NST; EST plus 90 minutes) between the Yukon and P.E.I.

In Pool A, Newfoundland/Labrador will play Ontario at 7 p.m. tonight, with the winner going on to play Nova Scotia at 10 a.m. Wednesday for the right to play in the Championship Round.

Clear to the Championship Round out of Pool A were Quebec’s Félix Asselin (Montreal, 6-0), defending champ Braden Calvert of Manitoba (Winnipeg; 5-1) and B.C.’s Paul Henderson (Victoria; 4-2). Moving on from Pool B were Alberta’s Karsten Sturmay (Edmonton; 5-1), Saskatchewan’s Jacob Hersikorn (Saskatoon; 5-1) and 2014 silver-medallist Rene Comeau of New Brunswick (Fredericton; 5-1).

Nova Scotia skip Mary Fay delivers rock in her team's win over Saskatchewan. (Photo, Amanda Rumboldt)

Nova Scotia skip Mary Fay delivers rock in her team’s win over Saskatchewan. (Photo, Amanda Rumboldt)

In the final men’s preliminary games, Quebec finished with a 7-4 win over Ontario; Manitoba turned back Newfoundland/Labrador 8-3; and B.C. downed Nunavut’s Kane Komaksiutiksak (Rankin Inlet; 0-6) 19-2.

The women’s picture, meanwhile, was clean following the conclusion of the preliminary round.

Moving on out of Pool A were defending world champ Kelsey Rocque of Alberta (Edmonton; 6-0); Ontario’s Chelsea Brandwood (Hamilton; 5-1); Quebec’s Émilia Gagné (Jonquière/Alma; 4-2) and Manitoba’s Beth Peterson (Winnipeg; 3-3).

Advancing out of Pool B were 2013 gold-medallist Corryn Brown of B.C. (Kamloops; 6-0), last year’s bronze-medallist Mary Fay of Nova Scotia (Chester; 4-2), Saskatchewan’s Kristen Streifel (Saskatoon; 4-2) and New Brunswick’s Justine Comeau (Fredericton; 3-3).

Nova Scotia picked up what could turn out to be a crucial win, taking two int the 10th end to beat Saskatchewan 5-4; that could play a role in determining seedings in the Championship Round.

In other women’s games to close out the preliminary round, Alberta scored four in the seventh end for a 9-6 win over Northern Ontario’s Krysta Burns (Sudbury; 2-4); Newfoundland/Labrador’s Sarah Hill (St. John’s; 1-5) turned back Carina McKay-Saturnino of the Northwest Territories (Inuvik; 1-5) 9-5; and Quebec stole three in the seventh end for a 10-6 win over Sadie Pinksen of Nunavut (Iqaluit; 0-6).

Action at the 2015 M&M Meat Shops Canadian Juniors continues on Tuesday with the first of the women’s Seeding Round draws, along with the tiebreakers, at 7 p.m.

Round-robin games are taking place at both the Corner Brook Civic Centre and the Corner Brook Curling Club.

Upon completion of the Championship Round, the top team of each gender advances to its respective final, while the second- and third-place finishers meet in a semifinal to determine the other finalist.

All members of the non-playoff teams will compete in a Mixed Doubles competition on Saturday and Sunday.

All playoff games will be played at the Civic Centre. The men’s and women’s playoffs will be televised by the TSN network as well as RDS2 (French). The women’s semifinal is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 31, at 1:30 p.m. NST/noon EST, with the gold-medal game at 8 p.m. NST/6:30 p.m. EST.

This story will be posted in French as soon as possible at http://www.curling.ca/2015juniors-fr/

The full scoreboard can be viewed at http://www.curling.ca/scoreboard/