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Pre-tournament favourites advance to gold medal games

On Wednesday morning in the men’s draw both of the top seeded teams advanced to vie for the title of CIS / Curling Canada University champion.

The University of Alberta Golden Bears took just eight ends to end the Brock Badgers’ quest for CIS gold with a 9-3 victory and advance to the gold medal match. A key moment was scoring four in the fourth end to take a 7-1 lead.

“We stayed patient in that game,” explained Scoffin. “There were some good shots being made back and forth. It didn’t look like we were going to have a big end but a couple of things went our way, and sometimes that’s just how it goes.”

On the next sheet over, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks held off a last surge from the University of Victoria Vikes to win 6-4 and advance to the gold medal match. Three of those six points came in the first end for the Golden Hawks.

“The first end didn’t start out too well for us,” shared Golden Hawks skip Aaron Squires. “We made a couple of good draws; all of their rocks were behind the tee line so we weren’t too scared to put some more rocks into play and take a couple of risks. We got a couple behind the corner and fortunately for us his last rock came up light so we had an open draw for three, which is huge in a game like this. I know it’s ten ends but you start playing a little defensive after that and you feel a lot more comfortable from that point on in the game.”

Scoffin looks forward to the challenge of playing a repeat final versus Wilfrid Laurier. “I’m excited. The boys are playing really well in front of me; I can’t ask for anything more. It’s a fun team to play against. They’re good guys, we’re good friends, we’re looking forward to it.”

Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks skip Aaron Squires (photo by Ken Reid, GreyStoke Photography)

Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks skip Aaron Squires
(photo by Ken Reid, GreyStoke Photography)

Squires is equally optimistic. “We feel good,” stated Squires. “We always look forward to playing them. They’re obviously a great team but we believe we are as well. We think we have a good shot at winning, but it’s definitely going to be a tough battle and we’re looking forward to it. We’ve been in this situation before and hopefully we’ll come out on the right side this time.”

All four teams will take to the ice again at 2:30 p.m. PDT in Kelowna. The Brock Badgers and the University of Victoria Vikes will vie for the bronze medal while the University of Alberta Golden Bears and the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks will play for gold in a repeat of last year’s finals.

In the women’s semi-finals, all four teams came out of the round robin draws with a record of (5-2). The top seed went to the Guelph University Gryphons, who would take on the fourth seeded University of Alberta Pandas. This is the first time that a Gryphons team has made the playoff stage of the women’s national tournament.

The other semi-final match-up had the number two seed Dalhousie University Tigers against the number three Thompson Rivers University WolfPack.

albertapandas5Jestyn Murphy’s Guelph Gryphons were the first team on the board in their semi-final, scoring one in the second end. Alberta skip Kelsey Rocque and her Pandas evened the game at one apiece in the third end. Guelph jumped out to a 4-1 lead through four ends, after scoring three in the fourth. Rocque’s Pandas had their own three-point end in the fifth, tying the game 4-4 at the break.

After the break, Alberta skip Rocque put her final stone inside Guelph’s in the four foot to steal a point for the Pandas in the sixth end. With a lone rock in the house, Guelph used the hammer to clear it and blank the seventh end. With the final stone in the eighth, the Gryphons stuck on a knock-out, and stole a single point, tying the game at 5-5 through eight ends.

Jestyn Murphy put her Gryphons rink in a strong position, scoring a point in the ninth to take a 6-5 lead heading into the tenth and final end. On her last rock of the game, Murphy had a shot to block Alberta’s chance on their final throw, but missed, leaving the middle of the house open for the Pandas. Alberta skip Kelsey Rocque played her final stone into the Guelph shot, knocking it out and taking three points in the final end. The Pandas took the semi-final game by a final score of 8-6.

After her team’s win, Rocque said of the finish: “Yeah . . . she had a shot on her last to make us have a tough shot for one, or maybe two . . . we got a lucky break.” Not chalking the whole win up to luck, Rocque added, “We’ll take it and move forward, and hopefully perform well in the final.”

Skip Corynn Brown and her TRU WolfPack scored first in their semi-final, taking a single point in the opening end. Dalhousie evened the game in the second end, after a perfect draw to the four foot on the final stone to steal a point. Thompson Rivers stole two from a packed house in the third end to jump out to a 3-1 lead over the Tigers. Dalhousie took one in the fourth end to cut the TRU lead to one, and stole another in the fifth the tie the game up going into the fifth end break.

Brown and her ‘Pack re-took the lead after the sixth, scoring two in the end. TRU added another in the seventh, to take a 6-3 lead. Brown hit a double knock-out with her last rock in the eighth, leaving her WolfPack with a shot to steal two and potentially end the game. With the final rock of the end, though, Dalhousie skip Kristin Clarke knocked both ‘Pack stones out of the four foot, taking a point for the Tigers and bringing her team within two at 6-4 after eight ends.

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Thompson River skip Corynn Brown (photo by Ken Reid)

In the ninth end, Brown and the WolfPack improved their lead to 7-4, and looked to be in position to upset reigning World Juniors Champion Kristin Clarke, and move on to the gold medal game, with one end left to play. In the final end, the ‘Pack put the game out of reach of the Tigers, and the teams shook hands with three rocks to play, giving Thompson Rivers the 7-4 victory.

After the win, the TRU skip said of defeating Clarke and the Tigers, “We’ve beaten some really good teams. It doesn’t really matter what they’ve done in their past, it’s how they’re playing right now, so we beat a really good team, and we’re going to be playing a really good team in the finals.” Brown continued, talking about being a de-facto home team: “We definitely didn’t get given our spot, so I think that shouldn’t be taken for granted . . . I’d say we definitely deserve to be here.”

As a result, Kelsey Rocque and her University of Alberta Pandas will take on Corynn Brown and her Thompson Rivers University WolfPack at 2:30 PM, for the right to be crowned the best women’s university curling team in the country.

The women’s bronze medal game, also at 2:30 PM Wednesday, will have Jestyn Murphy’s Guelph University Gryphons playing against Kristin Clarke’s Dalhousie University Tigers for the third spot on the CIS podium.