Opening at U-21s!
Nathan Young and Tori Zemmelink collect first wins in quest for gold at 2023 New Holland Canadian Under-21 Curling Championships
Newfoundland and Labrador #2’s Nathan Young may only be 20 years of age, but the up and coming junior star is already acclimated to some of Canadian curling’s biggest stages.
A Brier appearance? Young has that checked off two-fold with appearances in 2022 at Lethbridge, Alta., and again in 2023 at London, Ont. Gold medallist at the Pan Continental Curling Championship? Also completed as a fifth for team Brad Gushue in 2022 in Calgary. Youth Olympic Gold? Done and filed as a skip of Canada’s mixed team back in 2020 in Champéry, Switzerland.
While Young’s medal collection is adorned with plenty of gold, heart crests and ample accolades, he’s still missing a New Holland Canadian Under-21 Curling Championship gold medal; one that he would gladly welcome into his trophy cabinet.
Young and his St. John’s rink of vice-skip Sam Follett, second Nathan Locke, lead Aaron Feltham and coach Jeff Thomas made headway in their pursuit of gold at the 2023 New Holland Canadian Under-21 Curling Championships at Aréna Jacques Laperrière in Rouyn-Noranda, Qué., on Sunday evening with a 7-2 opening draw win over Ontario #1’s Jayden King (0-1; Ottawa).
The importance of a good start at a national championship is all but second nature to the experienced Young.
“The first game is so important for many reasons,” said Young reflecting on his opening draw victory. “The first is getting out and actually playing under the circumstances, and there’s a lot of nerves that come with that, a lot of excitement that comes with that. So it’s great to get out there and feel the natural flow of things. Good to come away with a win”
The win was tightly contested for the majority of the match until Newfoundland and Labrador #2 managed to steal two points in the eighth end to extend its lead to 6-2 before a steal of 1 in the ninth would be the final nail in the 7-2 victory.
Both teams had opportunities to make waves on the scoreboard. Momentum flowed back and forth between the teams as they postured up, but could never land a big blow to gain an advantage.
Young, by his own admission, says his team’s strong play was integral in keeping the scoreboard close while he struggled in the early stages.
“The guys played really good and I missed a few shots that were opportunities for us,” remarked Young about his team’s performance. “Like in the third end, we had a draw for two and I sent it through the house. In the sixth end? I had a draw to force them and I’m heavy and they get two. You take away a few of those heavy draws and the scoreboard looks a little bit nicer for us.”
Young knows that his opposition could have easily gotten the better of his errors, but winning the close ones will lead to success.
“It was a really good game,” mentioned Young. “Ontario played very well. They’ll be around for sure.”
The Ontario #1 women however, skipped by Tori Zemmelink and completed by vice-skip Paige Bown, second Kailee Delany, lead Scotia Maltman, alternate Emma Artichuck and coach Matt Wilkinson of the Navan Curling Club, fared better than the Ontario #1 men in its opening draw on Sunday night as they eked out a 6-5 win over Manitoba’s Grace Beaudry (0-1; Winnipeg) with a clutch draw to the four-foot in the 10th end.
“No, I don’t think so,” said Zemmelink after the game when asked if she’d ever drawn for the win at a national championship before. “It felt good. My heart was beating really fast, but took a deep breath, and yeah.”
The game could have easily been cracked open by either team at several points with Manitoba #2 bailing itself out of trouble against five Ontario #1 counters with an open hit in the fifth end for a single. Meanwhile, Manitoba #2 fourth stone thrower Emily Ogg navigated a supremely tight port to make a paper thin straight-back double for a score of two in the eighth end, picking an Ontario stone out from a frozen position in the four foot just to keep the game alive as Ontario lead 5-2 and had an additional steal looming.
“The shot that they made was phenomenal,” said Zemmelink of the through the port double executed by Manitoba #2 in the eighth end. “It was a hard shot. Kudos to them for making it.”
The palpable switch in momentum continued in the ninth as Ontario #1 would draw against three Manitoba stones to only surrender a single point, the best possible result available as Manitoba #2 was covering the pin and unable to be outcounted, to retain the hammer in the tenth.
The hammer would prove integral as Zemmelink credits her sweepers for the success on her final draw, earning the win.
“A little,” said Zemmelink if she had any doubts about her draw weight with the final stone. “I was really trying to make sure I gave it to the sweepers, and I did that. They pounded it the whole way and they got it there for the win. The times they were giving me were very accurate and I had just been throwing the tolerance heavy all game so I just gave it to them.”
Action from the 2023 New Holland Canadian Under-21 Curling Championships continues on Monday with draws at 9 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (all times Eastern).
For event info, scores, and draws, please visit: https://www.curling.ca/2023under21/
Select games will be streamed live on Curling Canada+.For streaming information, visit: https://plus.curling.ca/schedule?competitionId=8135&idx=2