Canadian players at 2023 World Junior Curling Championships in Fuessen, Germany. (Photo courtesy of Taylour Stevens)

Despite last win, Both Canadian teams fall to B-Group at World Junior Championships

While it was certainly a disappointing week for Canada’s teams at the World Junior Championship, they were at least able to finish with a win.

The Canadian men took down the United States with a convincing 11-5 victory, earning their third win of the championship. 

“It was really nice to end on a high note after a pretty tough week,” said Jeff Hoffart, team leader for the Canadian men. “The team battled hard throughout.”

The 3-6 record, however, will not be enough to advance to playoffs. The women’s team, with their last draw loss to Switzerland, find themselves with a 2-7 record and face the same fate as the men.

The men’s team skipped by Landan Rooney out of Whitby, Ont., and the women’s team skipped by Emily Deschenes out of Halifax both find themselves near the bottom of the table; an uncommon spot for Canadian teams.

“I’m very proud of this group of athletes,” said women’s team leader Lori Olson-Johns. “The competition level at the Worlds is the best in our sport. Many of these games came down to one key shot.”

With both teams finishing the week in eighth place, they’re subject to relegation to the B Group World Championships next season. Normally the bottom three from each gender would be forced to the B, but because next year’s host Finland was not present at this year’s tournament, a fourth team will also be sent down, looking to earn their spot back in the main group next December.

“Although we didn’t get the results we had hoped for, we know that we left all that we had out on the ice,” said second Alison Umlah. “It’s a long event and we felt that we got stronger each and every game, and stuck together regardless of the outcome.” 

This is obviously an upsetting turn of events for the Canadian women (Deschenes, Lauren Fitzgerald, Umlah, Cate Fitzgerald, coach Mary Mattatal, Olson-Johns, former skip Taylour Stevens) , who won the World B Championship earlier this season in Finland to qualify for the Fuessen event. 

With the extra relegation spot in play, Rooney (with Scott Mitchell, Jacob Jones, Austin Snyder, coach Colling Mitchell, Hoffart, and fifth Connor Deane) were drawing dead on the last day of competition. Even with two wins, they’d still have been on the chopping block, heading for relegation.

They dropped the morning game to host Germany before rallying vs. the USA to finish strong. Fifth man Deane entered the game vs. USA and made the most of his playing time with a highlight reel runback. 

“We never gave up,” said Hoffart, “even though we knew our fate was sealed. We still all feel very honoured to represent Canada, and to play in such an amazing event.”

The junior men will make the trip to the B Group for the first time. 

This challenge will fall to whichever teams win the 2023 New Holland Canadian Juniors, which will take place in Rouyn Noranda, Quebec later this month.