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From Little Rocks to national championships: Team Young’s path to success

SHERWOOD PARK, ALTA. — In a sport that emphasizes quadrennial cycles, it’s becoming less frequent to see a team’s full roster remain untouched for more than four years. But Ethan Young’s team from Nova Scotia has exceeded those expectations, completing eight full seasons and counting.

Team Young has been curling together for eight years and counting and have come a long way since winning a provincial U-11 title in 2011. (Photos, Infinite Eye Photography [left) and submitted by Brian Mackintosh [right])

Young, vice-skip Kieran Mackintosh, second Chris Churchill, lead Aden Kavanaugh (coached by Brian Mackintosh), started playing in a little rocks program and first stepped onto the ice together wearing helmets. Now they’re representing Nova Scotia at the 2019 Canadian U-18 Curling Championships at the Glen Allan Recreation Complex and Sherwood Park Curling Club.

It’s the second time the group has repped Nova Scotia this season. They played at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta., in February and finished outside the playoff picture with a 5-5 record. It was a long-term goal they set four years ago after watching Matthew Manuel earn the right to represent Nova Scotia in 2015.

“It was surreal because you kind of watch it on the TV, all the people repping their province, and you get to go and be that team that people are cheering on and it’s really cool,” said Churchill.

While the four players all attend different schools, they’ve developed a bond over nearly the last decade through curling. They began in the Little Rocks program at the Mayflower Curling Club in Halifax (which remains their home club) and coach Brian, Kieran’s father, noticed all four players taking an interest in the sport.

“It was four guys who were really, really keen. So we knew early on that these were guys who love to curl and curling was their thing. They were very passionate about it,” Brian said.

The team won a U-11 provincial championship in their second year of eligibility and followed with a U-15 championship in 2017. This year the team advanced to the U-18 provincial final but lost to Adam McEachren (Truro Curling Club). McEachren earned a spot at the 2019 Canadian U-18 Curling Championships, however the province was awarded a second entry in the boy’s competition due to winning last season’s event. Because of this, Team Young also received an invitation.

They’ve made the most of the experience so far and are tied for second in Pool A with a 2-1 record. Team Young split a pair of games on Wednesday. It opened with an 8-6 extra-end loss to Ontario’s Dylan Niepage (Coldwater & District Curling Club), followed by a 5-4 victory against Quebec’s Raphaël Patry (Club de curling Kénogami).

The team’s journey together has been through peaks and valleys, but has always been founded on support – even from a young age. Kavanaugh was born with three chambers in his heart. The 16-year-old has required three open heart surgeries in his lifetime – at eight-days old and at ages 4 and 12.

“It hasn’t slowed me down,” Kavanaugh said. “There’s only been one time in the eight years we’ve curled together where I had to be moved around so I swept less.”

Kavanaugh’s teammates support him by treating him just like any other player on the team.

“We just treat him like one of us,” Young said. “We didn’t want to treat him differently because he had problems with his heart. We just want to have fun and enjoy our time together.”

As for the team’s goals this week, they want to build off a strong finish at the Canada Winter Games and battle for a place on the podium. It would be another big accomplishment for a team that coach Brian believes can be playing for a long time.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they were 70 and still curling together,” he joked.

Manitoba’s Jordon McDonald (St. Vital Curling Club, Winnipeg) is the only team ahead of Young in Pool A with a 3-0 record. In Pool B, Saskatchewan’s Jayden Bindig (Wadena RE/MAX Curling Club) is the only undefeated team at 3-0.

On the girl’s side, Prince Edward Island’s Lauren Ferguson (Cornwall Curling Club) leads Pool A at 3-0. Manitoba’s Emma Jensen (Dauphin Curling Club) tops Pool B with a 3-1 record.

The 2019 Canadian Under-18  Curling Championships continue on Thursday with games at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. (all times MT).

The top four teams from each pool will play in a double-knockout bracket that will qualify four teams for an Olympic-style playoff (1 vs. 4, 2 vs. 3) where the winners advance to the gold-medal games and losers will play for bronze.

Selected games will be streamed live on Curling Canada’s Youtube page: https://www.youtube.com/curlingcanada

For more information on team lineups, schedules and tickets, visit the event website: https://www.curling.ca/2019under18/