One more for gold!

Team Newfoundland/Labrador celebrates its men’s semifinal victory on Saturday at the New Holland Canadian Juniors. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)


TOWNSHIP OF LANGLEY, B.C. — Playing in his third New Holland Canadian Junior Men’s Curling Championship, Daniel Bruce had enough veteran savvy to understand the virtue of patience.

Five ends into Saturday’s men’s semifinal at the George Preston Recreation Centre, Bruce’s Newfoundland/Labrador team from St. John’s was down 3-2 to a Saskatchewan team skipped by Rylan Kleiter that seemingly had all the momentum going its way — twice forcing its opponents to settle for single points, while scoring a deuce of its own and stealing a single.

But this being junior curling, it’s a given that momentum is a tenuous concept at best, and the sixth end confirmed that; Bruce, backed up by third Ryan McNeil Lamswood, second/vice-skip Joel Krats, lead Nathan King and coach/dad Dennis Bruce, manufactured a wonderful sixth end that resulted in a game-turning steal of two.

And just over an hour later, it was Bruce celebrating his first trip to the gold-medal game with a 9-8 victory.

Newfoundland/Labrador skip Daniel Bruce, below, calls to his sweepers as Saskatchewan skip Rylan Kleiter looks on. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

“This is my third year here, and you see it all the time — other teams get up, but the game’s never over,” said Daniel Bruce, a 21-year-old communications student at Memorial University in St. John’s, who grew up in Corner Brook. “We just kept playing hard, hoped for a couple misses, and we were lucky enough to get them.”

They did indeed; in the sixth, Newfoundland-Labrador forced Kleiter (backed by vice-skip Trevor Johnson, second Joshua Mattern, lead Matthieu Taillon and coach/dad Dean Kleiter) to attempt a testy draw to bite the button looking at three opposing counters.

The draw was just inches heavy — and suddenly the one-point Saskatchewan lead was a one-point deficit.

“That draw just went a couple inches too far, and that was the difference,” said Kleiter, who also wopn a bronze medal at the 2019 New Holland Canadian Juniors in Prince Albert, Sask. “We had trouble getting the momentum back after that. We came here with a goal in mind and didn’t quite accomplish it, but we have a lot to be proud of.”

Saskatchewan was forced to take one in the seventh to tie the game, but Newfoundland/Labrador turned up the heat in the eighth, and it paid off with a count of five that all but sealed the victory.

“Our philosophy all week was patience equals podium,” said Dennis Bruce. “We knew we were still in the game, and we were loose. We were loose all week, and to some extent, we knew we had nothing to lose. So that’s the way we played. The key thing was that we hadn’t put their skip under any pressure, so we had to change that up, and it worked.”

With the win, Newfoundland/Labrador advances to Sunday’s 2 p.m. (all times Pacific; TSN) gold-medal men’s game against the Manitoba #2 team skipped by Jacques Gauthier, a silver-medallist last year with JT Ryan, who aged out of juniors.

Manitoba #2 was a 10-6 winner over Newfoundland/Labrador in their round-robin game.

“Just play like we did today — just make shots,” said Daniel Bruce with a smile. “We’ve played them before, Jacques is really good. We just have to make life hard on him, force him into some tough shots, and keep it going.”

It is the first time Newfoundland/Labrador has had a team in the men’s final since 2004 when Matthew Blandford lost to New Brunswick’s Ryan Sherrard at Victoria. Three years earlier, Brad Gushue captured Newfoundland/Labrador’s only Canadian junior men’s gold medal to date.

“It would mean everything — for Newfoundland, for us, for all of our hard work,” said Bruce, who also skipped Memorial University to a silver medal at the 2019 U SPORTS Championships. “We all deserve it. It would be nice to bring (the championship) back to the Rock.

“I didn’t see this coming. Well, I did — we’re definitely good enough, actually seeing it play out is kind of amazing. I’m kind of starstruck in a way. I mean, we’re definitely good enough, and everybody played amazing today.”

Meanwhile, in women’s play, Alberta’s Abby Marks (Edmonton) was a 10-3 winner over New Brunswick’s Melodie Forsythe (Moncton) in a tiebreaker game to nail down the third and final playoff position.

Alberta (Marks is backed up by vice-skip Catherine Clifford, second Paige Papley, lead Jamie Scott and coach Doug Marks) will take on Nova Scotia’s Taylour Stevens (Halifax) in the semifinal, beginning Saturday at 4 p.m. (TSN).

The semifinal winner will then move into the gold-medal game against undefeated Mackenzie Zacharias of Manitoba (Altona) at 9 a.m. on Sunday (TSN).

The winners of Sunday’s gold-medal games will represent Canada at the 2020 World Junior Curling Championships, beginning Feb. 15 in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.

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