Alberta claims its 16th Canadian Junior Men’s title

Alberta, skipped by Brendan Bottcher of Edmonton, proved it was the best team of the week by taking the M&M Meat Shops Canadian Junior Men’sfinal, 9-6 over a stubborn Northern Ontario (Brennan Wark of Thunder Bay), Sunday evening in Napanee.

Alberta Junior Men's Team wins the 2012 M&M Meat Shops Canadian Juniors (Photo: Michael Burns Photography Ltd.)

Now, the Bottcher team of third Evan Asmussen, and a twin brother front end combination of second Landon Bucholz and lead Bryce Bucholz are off to Östersund, Sweden, for the World Junior Curling Championships, March 3-11, seeking a leading 17th world junior men’s title for Canada since 1975. Canada’s last win was by Alberta skip Charley Thomas in Eveleth, Minnesota in 2007. “Our goal at the start of the year was to make it here,” said the 20-year-old Bottcher, a Chemical Engineering student at the University of Alberta. “Alberta is a great (tough) province but once we got here, the goal was to win. “I had to (make some good draws), but he (Wark) made some great shots, too. It was a really tough battle. We seemed to always have control but just by a little bit. And then he’d make a couple of good shots and they were right back in it.” It is the first Canadian junior title for Bottcher, Asmussen, the Bucholz twins and coach Bernie Panich. It was also a leading 16th title for Alberta since the championship began in 1950, but the first one since 2007, when Charley Thomas won the second of back-to-back Canadian titles in St. Catharines. It marked the third consecutive year that one province has swept both the men’s and women’s championships. Saturday night, Alberta’s Jocelyn Peterman of Red Deer won the women’s final over Manitoba and will also represent Canada at the World Juniors. In 2011, Saskatchewan’s Braeden Moskowy and Trish Paulsen won Canadian titles in Calgary, while in 2010 in Sorel-Tracy, Ontario’s Rachel Homan and Jake Walker won their respective championships. The men’s final was a hard fought, well-curled affair, as the teams tried to take command only to be repulsed by the other. Alberta opened with a deuce in the first and a steal in the second, when Wark wrecked on a guard, to go up 3-0. But the T-Bay boys fought back with their own deuce in the third and a steal in the fourth to knot the final at three apiece. Bottcher, who was called upon several times to make precision draws, took another deuce in the fifth, but again Northern Ontario responded with a pair to tie the game at five after six ends. Another Alberta deuce put the Saville Sports Centre team up 7-5 after a Bottcher draw. Then in the eighth, Wark had to make a perfect draw to bite the button while staring at four Alberta counters. But it was only for one, as Northern Ontario still trailed 7-6. Bottcher was able to blank the ninth with the help of an Asmussen double. Then, in the 10th end, Bottcher played a perfect draw to the full-four beside another of his counters with his first rock, leaving Wark a difficult come-around draw to the button. It was heavy and rolled away, leaving two Alberta counters and without Bottcher having to throw his last one. “The sweepers just put it in a perfect spot. I didn’t think he had a shot. As it turned it, he didn’t really have much,” continued Bottcher. “The ninth end was pretty key, the blank, really set us up good going into 10. Taking one would have been fine (in nine), but one up with (hammer) coming home is a pretty good spot to be in.” Alberta had finished first with an 11-1 mark to advance directly to the final. They’d also beaten Northern Ontario, 10-3 in the round robin. Northern Ontario, meanwhile, tied for second at 9-3 with Nova Scotia and Manitoba, but was awarded the semi-final berth for its round robin wins over both. Earlier on Sunday, Northern Ontario advanced to the final with a 7-3 semi-final win over Manitoba. “Sorry we didn’t get the win, but it was a really good game,” said the 19-year-old Wark, a Commerce student at Lakehead University. “Alberta played good as well. We had a really good week. Second’s not all that bad. We don’t think that right now but overall it was a pretty good week for us. “The skip (Bottcher) was playing lights out that game (a game high 89%). We kept it close. He was making all his shots. That was a great last shot he played. I didn’t have hardly anything. I tried to catch the button but went a little deep. We tried out best. Brought it to the last rock.”