Former Alberta rivals join forces at 2018 New Holland Canadian Juniors

SHAWINIGAN, Que. — It was two years ago that three members of Alberta’s women’s team at the 2018 New Holland Canadian Junior Curling Championships bore witness to one of the best walk-off shots in curling history.

Kayla Skrlik’s Alberta team is in playoff contention at the 2018 New Holland Canadian Juniors. (Photo, Curling Canada/Shawinigan Host Committee)

Alberta second Hope Sunley was on the right side of the shot; then, she was the lead for Selena Sturmay’s team, which won the 2016 Alberta junior women’s title when Sturmay made a stunning double raise double takeout with her final shot (CLICK HERE to see the shot).

On the other side were current Alberta skip Kayla Skrlik and her sister (and current vice-skip) Ashton, who could only watch as their dream of representing Alberta was shattered.

“I’ve watched it,” admitted Kayla Skrlik with a smile. “A few times. Oh, it was a great shot. How do you not get over it? She made it awesome; there was only one way to make that shot, and she did it.”

“We were really hoping for the extra end, actually,” admitted Sunley. “We wanted to blast them all out and fingers crossed that we could score in the extra. We kind of got lucky that our rock stuck around.”

Two years later, the Skrlik sisters from tiny Nampa, Alberta, along with lead Megan Johnson, found themselves all attending university in Calgary, and knew that was Sunley’s hometown; why not join forces?

They did just that, and a few weeks later, the team ran the table with an 8-0 record at the Alberta junior championship in Lethbridge, and find themselves in the playoff hunt at the Canadian championship, following a 10-2 win over Newfoundland/Labrador’s Mackenzie Glynn (St. John’s) that left both teams with 5-3 records.

“We definitely took the long route, my sister and I, but what an awesome experience,” said Kayla Skrlik, whose team represents the Falher Curling Club in the Peace country of Alberta (20 minutes from Nampa; “My class sizes at the University of Calgary are bigger than Nampa,” joked Skrlik), and is coached by Charles Simoneau.

“It was great (to win the Alberta junior title), it was so relieving, and to do it with Hope, Ashton and Megan, it’s an amazing team to work with. They’re so fun.”

Northern Ontario’s Nick Bissonnette delivers his stone as teammate Maxime Blais waits to sweep. (Photo, Curling Canada/Shawinigan Host Committee)

The team is still in contention for one of three playoff berths, but almost surely will need to win its final two games — later Thursday against P.E.I.’s Lauren Lenentine (5-3; Cornwall) and Friday morning against Northern Ontario’s Hailey Beaudry (3-5; Thunder Bay) to have a chance.

“We’re pleased,” said Skrlik, whose trying to give the Peace Curling Association its first Canadian junior women’s champion since Heather Nedohin (then Godberson) in 1996; Nedohin went on to win the world junior title. “We had a couple tough losses earlier, but we’re just trying to grind out these last two games and make it into a playoff spot.”

In the other women’s Championship Pool game, New Brunswick’s Justine Comeau (7-2; Fredericton) continued her march to the playoffs with a 9-2 win over Northern Ontario.

The first-place finisher in the Championship Pool will go straight to Sunday’s women’s gold-medal game Sunday at 1 p.m. (all times Eastern), while the second- and third-place teams will meet in the semifinal Saturday at 1 p.m.

On the men’s side, 2016 silver-medallist and 2017 bronze-medallist Tanner Horgan of Northern Ontario (Sudbury) clinched first place in the Championship Pool with a 7-3 win over Quebec’s Alek Bédard (4-4; Lacolle). The win left Northern Ontario with an 8-1 record to earn a bye to Sunday’s 6 p.m. men’s final.

In the other Championship Pool men’s game, Manitoba’s JT Ryan (7-2; Winnipeg) scored two in the 10th end for a 7-6 win over Newfoundland/Labrador’s Daniel Bruce (3-5; Corner Brook).

In Seeding Pool men’s play, the Yukon’s Joe Wallingham (3-5; Whitehorse) beat Nunavut’s Javen Komaksiutiksak (0-9; Rankin Inlet) 7-5; and Saskatchewan’s Rylan Kleiter (3-5; Saskatoon) turned back Sawer Kaeser of the Northwest Territories (1-8; Fort Smith) 10-4.

In the women’s games, Manitoba’s Shae Bevan (5-3; Winnipeg) beat Nunavut’s Sadie Pinksen (2-7; Iqaluit) 10-2; and B.C.’s Taylor Reese-Hansen (3-4; Victoria) was a 10-1 winner over the Yukon’s Kelsey Meger (0-9; Whitehorse).

Action continues in the 2018 Canadian Juniors with draws Thursday at 6:30 p.m. (all times Eastern), with draws on Friday at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

TSN/RDS2, the official broadcaster of Curling Canada’s Season of Champions, will provide live and exclusive coverage of the womenʼs and menʼs semifinals on Saturday, Jan. 20, and finals on Sunday, Jan. 21. The same games also will be streamed live in the U.S. on ESPN3. CLICK HERE for the broadcast schedule.

The winning teams Sunday will represent Canada at the 2018 World Junior Championships, March 3-10 in Aberdeen, Scotland.

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