Alberta, skipped by Brendan Bottcher of Edmonton, clinched first place and a berth in Sunday evening’s final at the M&M Meat Shop Canadian Junior Curling Championships in Napanee with a methodical 8-5 win over New Brunswick Friday morning.
The victory meant the team finished the round robin with an 11-1 mark and now proceeds to the 7:00 pm ET final, live on TSN (RDS in Quebec). That’s the good news. If there’s any bad news, it’s that they don’t play again for about 55 hours. Their only loss came at the hands of Manitoba (Kyle Doering of Winnipeg), 9-5 in an extra end on Tuesday.
“It feels great. The goal to start the week was to make the playoffs,” said the 20-year-old Bottcher, making his second appearance at the Juniors, along with his front end twins…Landon and Bryce Bucholz, who were 6-6 in Sorel-Tracy in 2010. New to the team is third Evan Asmussen.
“But once we started going, we were definitely going for first. We have a little more experience that some of the other teams that are here. And we’ve trained really hard this year to get here. I think that’s all helped.
“It’s a little unique to have that much time off, but we’ll probably just take some time away and just relax. And I know we’ll be practicing probably tomorrow (Saturday) and Sunday morning.
“Our provincial playdowns were similar. We had a day and a half, almost two days off. It worked out well back then, so hopefully we can have one more good one. You just need to occupy your time and not get too stressed out about the curling.
On a possible rematch with Manitoba in the final, “I wouldn’t mind playing Manitoba again. It would be a good grudge match game, but we’ll see. I think we have a good chance against whoever comes up.
“This was a big game for us (against New Brunswick). We came out firing this morning. Everyone curled great. You just want to get on a roll going into the playoffs and we want to have momentum going, so it was a big game for that reason, also.”
So, Alberta now awaits the semi-final winner – which will be one of Manitoba, Nova Scotia (Stuart Thompson of Halifax) or Northern Ontario (Brennan Wark of Thunder Bay).
Nova Scotia punched its ticket to a possible Saturday afternoon tiebreaker (2:00 pm) with a 8-6 extra end win over British Columbia.
Manitoba, currently at 9-2, can lock up second place and a berth in Sunday’s 2:00 pm semi-final with a win over Yukon this afternoon in the final round robin draw at 1:00 pm. Northern Ontario goes up against New Brunswick and must win to make at least a tiebreaker.
Alberta has won a leading 15 Canadian junior men’s titles since 1950, Manitoba has taken six, Northern Ontario four and Nova Scotia one.
The winners of the M&M Meat Shops Canadian Juniors will represent Canada at the World Juniors, March 3-11 in Östersund, Sweden.
Over on the women’s side, while the three finalists were decided Thursday night, first place is still up in the air.
Friday morning, Alberta’s Jocelyn Peterman of Red Deer beat New Brunswick, 8-5 in an extra end to clinch at least second place, as her team finished 10-2.
Manitoba (Shannon Birchard of Winnipeg), currently 9-2, plays Yukon this afternoon. A win puts them into the final Saturday at 7:00 pm, live on TSN (RDS in Quebec), since they defeated Alberta, 9-5 during the round robin. A loss means they go to Saturday afternoon’s semi-final at 2:00 pm to meet British Columbia (Kesa Van Osch of Nanaimo).
“It’s been decent. We’ve been playing pretty good,” said the 18-year-old Peterman, making her Juniors debut after earning a silver medal at the 2011 Canada Winter Games in Halifax. “Hopefully we’ll come out strong tomorrow. It’s kind of out of our control. If we have to play both games tomorrow, it’s not a big deal.”
Peterman opened the championship last Saturday by edging British Columbia, 9-8.
“Our goal was definitely Sweden all along. It doesn’t really matter who we play. We had a good game against them (BC). It seems like a long time ago.”
British Columbia’s three Van Osch sisters played without injured lead Brooklyn Leitch this morning and lost to Nova Scotia (Emily Dwyer of Halifax), 9-5, to finish 8-4. They’ll meet either Alberta or Manitoba in tomorrow’s semi-final.
Since 1971, Manitoba has won nine Canadian junior women’s crowns, Alberta five and British Columbia three.