Return of juniors!

2021 New Holland World Junior Qualifier women’s champions, from left, Katy Lukowich, Katie Shaw, Lauren Rajala, Jamie Smith, Isabelle Ladouceur and Steve Acorn. (Photo, Curling Canada/Darlene Danyliw)

2022 New Holland Canadian Juniors return Friday in Stratford

The 2022 New Holland Canadian Junior Curling Championships will run for the first time in two years, and with it is a new crop of talented curlers under the age of 21 who are vying for an opportunity to make their mark on the game.

Of the 154 junior men and women curlers set to compete at the Stratford Rotary Complex in Ontario from March 25-April 1, only 21 players competed at a national under-21 event before. While there will be many first-time appearances at this event, it will be the second time this season some of the country’s best junior-aged teams have competed on a national stage. In November 2021, teams headed to Saskatoon for the New Holland World Junior Qualifier, the event that determined Canada’s junior men’s and women’s teams at the upcoming 2022 World Junior Curling Championships from May 15-22 in Jönköping, Sweden.

Northern Ontario’s women’s team, skipped by Isabelle Ladouceur, claimed the title and will represent Canada later this year. And while Ladouceur has aged out of juniors, her team lineup will compete in Stratford with Katy Lukowich (alternate for the team at the world junior qualifier) slotting in at skip with vice-skip Jamie Smith, second Lauren Rajala, lead Katie Shaw and coach Steve Acorn of Curl Sudbury. 

Another team with goals of claiming the coveted championship is Nova Scotia’s Taylour Stevens, who made the semifinals at the qualifier earlier this year. Stevens, the 2020 under-21 bronze-medallist, skips a re-tooled team with former Prince Edward Island skip Lauren Ferguson at third. 

Nova Scotia’s Owen Purcell won the men’s event; however, the team is not age-eligible for the New Holland Canadian Juniors. But a team that won the hearts of Canadian curling fans earlier this month will be at the event. Newfoundland & Labrador’s Team Nathan Young has had a storybook season. First, the team finished as the runner-up to Purcell at the qualifier. Then it qualified to represent Newfoundland & Labrador at the 2022 Tim Hortons Brier. The team went 1-7 in Lethbridge, Alta., and it served as an ideal tune-up event for the New Holland Canadian Juniors. 

In addition to Team Young, five of the six teams involved in the qualifier playoffs are back in the field and poised to make a run at the Canadian juniors. Semifinalists Team Daymond Bernath of Saskatchewan returns with its original lineup, while Ontario’s Team Landan Rooney is also in the mix with a shuffled lineup. Quarterfinalists Team Jordon McDonald of Manitoba and Team Johnson Tao of Alberta will also compete at full slate.

And on the line at the end of the week are the men’s and women’s spots as Team Canada at the 2023 World Junior Curling Championships to be held next season (date and location TBC). 

It will be the largest field of men’s and women’s teams to ever play at the New Holland Canadian Juniors, with 18 teams in both junior men’s and junior women’s competition. There are 14 Member Association teams, one host team – competing as Ontario 2 – and three teams selected based on Member Association cumulative results from the 2019 and 2020 junior championships. If a Member Association does not send a team, its place is filled by the next highest qualified team on the two-year rolling berth spots list.

Nunavut did not send a team to the women’s event, meaning four additional spots were awarded based on two-year rolling berths. The teams are Alberta 2, Nova Scotia 2, Manitoba 2 and Quebec 2. 

Newfoundland & Labrador skip Nathan Young competed at the 2022 Tim Hortons Brier in Lethbridge, Alta. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Nunavut and Yukon did not send teams in the men’s event, meaning five additional spots were awarded based on two-year rolling berths. The teams are: Saskatchewan 2, Manitoba 2, Newfoundland & Labrador 2, British Columbia 2 and Alberta 2.

Curling Canada expanded the field due to the cancelled national championship in 2021 to allow more youth curlers to experience the national championships and develop their skills.

The teams are separated into two pools of nine teams and play an eight-game round robin. The top three teams advance to the playoffs and there will be no tiebreaker games. 

The first-place teams in each pool receive a bye into the semifinals, and the second- and third-placed teams cross over to play against each other (2A vs. 3B; 2B vs. 3A). The winners of the cross-over games advance to the semifinals. The semifinals winner advance to the gold-medal game, and the losers will play in the bronze-medal match. 

Select games will be live-streamed on Curling Canada’s YouTube page. You can view the streaming schedule here.

The 2022 New Holland Canadian Juniors is also notable for the number of past For the Love of Curling scholarship recipients in the field, with nine scholars over the past two years, including:

2021 – Jordon McDonald, Jamie Smith, Johnson Tao

2020 – Lauren Ferguson, Dylan Neipage, Jaedon Neuert, Lauren Rajala, Taylour Stevens, Nathan Young

Ontario teams have won 12 Canadian junior championships, the latest in 2010 when both Jake Walker and Rachel Homan won the national titles for their province. Other previous winners were John Morris in 1998 and ’99, Kim Gellard in 1993, Noel Herron in 1990, Alison Goring 1983, John Base in 1982, Mark McDonald in 1973, William Hope in 1968, Ian Johnston in 1957 and Bob Walker in 1953.

For teams, results and event information, click here.

For the event media guide, click here.

Curling Canada