B.C. repeats men’s gold-medal victory at 2018 New Holland Canadian Juniors

SHAWINIGAN, Que. — Tyler Tardi and his British Columbia team will travel to Scotland in just over a month with some unfinished business to take care of.

Men’s gold-medallists at the 2018 New Holland Canadian Junior Curling, from left, Tyler Tardi, Sterling Middleton, coach Paul Tardi, Jordan Tardi, Zac Curtis. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Sunday at Aréna de Grand-Mére, Tardi, 19, joined some elite company as just the sixth male ever to skip back-to-back Canadian Junior gold-medallists, beating Northern Ontario’s Tanner Horgan (Sudbury) 8-4 in the men’s final of the 2018 New Holland Canadian Junior Curling Championships.

The win sends Tardi’s team from Langley/New Westminster — vice-skip Sterling Middleton, second (and older brother) Jordan Tardi, lead Zac Curtis and coach/dad Paul Tardi — to Aberdeen, Scotland, for the 2018 World Junior Championships, March 3-10.

There, Tardi will be looking to improve on a fifth-place finish at the 2017 World Juniors in Gangneung, South Korea — an event Tardi entered with higher expectations.

He’ll aim to meet those expectations this time around with three-quarters of his 2017 team intact — Curtis is the newcomer, replacing the aged-out Nick Meister.

British Columbia’s Tyler Tardi watches his shot, as Northern Ontario’s Nick Bissonnette looks on during the gold-medal game. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

“Definitely some unfinished business,” said Tardi, who joins Manitoba’s Braden Calvert (2014, 2015), Alberta’s Charley Thomas (2006, 2007), Ontario’s John Morris (1998, 1999), and Saskatchewan teams skipped by Bayne Secord (1954, 1955) and Gary Thode (1951, 1952) as back-to-back Canadian junior men’s champions. “Our last round-robin game (last year in Gangneung), if we won we were in the Page one-two game but we lost (9-8 in an extra end to Scotland) and we were in the tiebreaker (losing 8-7 to Norway). Losing that game was pretty devastating, to say the least. So we’re pretty excited to go back and try to bring it home this time.”

The B.C. team, which was one loss away from being eliminated on Friday morning before stealing a victory over Northern Ontario in its final round-robin game, went on to win a playoff tiebreaker later Friday over Karsten Sturmay of Alberta, and then the men’s semifinal on Saturday against Manitoba’s JT Ryan.

It carried that momentum into the gold-medal game, stealing single points in the first two ends after Horgan misses, then forcing Northern Ontario to a single in the third and then scoring the game’s first deuce in the fourth on an open takeout.

And from then on, it was air-tight play from B.C. that kept Northern Ontario from generating the offence that was necessary to cut into the lead.

After Northern Ontario was forced to one in the sixth, B.C. blanked the seventh end, and Tardi delivered the decisive blow with his inturn draw through a narrow port to score three for an insurmountable 7-2 lead.

“We had a long road to take to get to where we are right now; I still don’t believe it,” said Tardi. “I’m still in shock from last season, let alone two in a row. I’m really proud of the way the boys have been working.”

Northern Ontario hadn’t played a game since the loss to B.C. on Friday morning, and that game inactivity played a role in the slow start, suggested Horgan.

“For sure, it was tough. The ice changed a lot; I mean, we’re supposed to read that and we’re supposed to adapt, and you can’t ask for much more than going into the final with hammer. We got two practices on it and we just didn’t adapt properly,” said Horgan, who also collected silver at this event in 2016 at Stratford, Ont., and bronze a year ago in Victoria, and admitted to some frustration at the near-misses. “I don’t want to be that guy who makes two or three finals and never gets it.”

The B.C. team will head to Scotland looking for Canada’s leading 19th gold medal at the World Juniors, and first since Braden Calvert’s gold in 2015 at Tallinn, Estonia.

“It’s definitely going to take some extra fine-tuning in the next few weeks,” said Tardi, whose team added Manitoba third Jacques Gauthier — the Tardi brothers’ cousin — as an alternate for the trip to the World Juniors. “Try to fix as much as we can, and try to peak at the right time and hopefully we can do the country proud.”

It was B.C.’s sixth men’s gold medal at the New Holland Canadian Juniors.

Earlier on Sunday, Nova Scotia’s Kaitlyn Jones won the women’s gold medal as her Halifax team defeated Quebec’s Laurie St-Georges 5-3.

The Jones team will bring P.E.I. skip Lauren Lenentine as its alternate for the World Juniors.

The 2019 New Holland Canadian Juniors will take place in Prince Albert, Sask.