U-21 ‘B’ ROAD BEGINS
CANADA’S JOURNEY BACK TO JUNIORS WORLD ‘A’ GROUP BEGINS IN FINLAND
Canada’s journey to a World Championship began Monday as the 2023 U-21 champions took off for Lohja, Finland. The catch, or maybe the carrot, for the two Alberta-based teams is that they’re headed to the World B championship, which can result in a gold medal and a qualification for the A group championship in the spring.
Both of Canada’s reps won their respective national titles in March at the New Holland Canadian U-21 Championships in Rouyn-Noranda, Que. Leaving for Finland on Monday were skip Myla Plett, vice-skip Alyssa Nedohin, second Chloe Fediuk, and lead Allie Iskiw of the Airdrie and Sherwood Park Curling Clubs, who won the national women’s event without losing a game. It was their second Canadian championship of the year, as the foursome had also won the U-18 national championship a few months prior. Coach Blair Lenton and team leader Lori Olson-Johns will support the team in Finland.
“The girls have done everything they can to be absolutely prepared for this,” said Olson-Johns. “They’re a fabulous group of young women, and we’re looking forward to supporting them this week. These young ladies are really well coached, so they’ll be ready for the challenge.”
The women’s team open their competition on Dec. 8 vs. Romania and then Spain later in the day.
“Playing at a B championship gives you some great perspective,” said Olson-Johns. “We’re going to see some countries that we never would have in the past. It’s an opportunity to feel some gratitude for all the things we have in Canada, as far as ice conditions, equipment, coaching and so on. Not every country gets that.”
The men’s event will begin at the same arena almost a week later. The men’s side, skipped by Johnson Tao of the Saville Community Sports Centre in Edmonton, made it through the U-21 national event with only one loss in the round robin. His team of vice-skip Jaedon Neuert, second Benjamin Morin, and lead Adam Naugler defeated Northern Ontario’s Dallas Burgess in the final to claim the gold medal and the right to represent Canada at the world level. Coach Skip Wilson and team leader Rob Krepps will be there to help manage the experience – albeit with a slightly new roster.
Morin, who played second at the Canadians, has now aged out based on age eligibility.
“Ben will be coming along as an assistant coach,” said Krepps. “He’ll be replaced by Zach Davies, his teammate at the University of Alberta and part of last year’s U-18 championship team.”
The men will open their competition on Dec. 14 vs. Urkaine.
If all goes well couple of weeks in Finland, the two teams will wear the Maple Leaf twice this season. By finishing in the top three spots at the B championship, they’ll qualify for the A group competition in February 2024, right back in the same building in Lohja.
“The neat thing with the Bs, is that you’re playing for yourself,” said Olson-Johns. “You’re giving yourself another opportunity to play for another world championship in a calendar year. Considering the teams coming out of the B are going to have experience in this venue, they might be at a bit of an advantage.”
At last year’s World Championships in Fuessen, Germany, both Canadian entries finished in the bottom four spots of the A group, which meant relegation to the B group at the following championship. Canada’s Team Emily Deschenes skipped her team to a 2-7 record, and the men’s Team Landon Rooney had a 3-6 record.
Deschenes had to play in the B championships last year to qualify for the A group. She, along with her Nova Scotia-based team of vice-skip Lauren Ferguson, second Alison Umlah and lead Cate Fitzgerald finished an undefeated run through the 24-team event and capped it off with a 5-4 win over Scotland’s Team Fay Henderson.
Olson-Johns was there as the team leader and will use that event to prepare this team.
“Anytime you have some experience with the venue, or you know what to expect, it can be a bit of an advantage,” said Olson-Johns. “We were able to share some pictures from last year and let them know what it’s like. Like I said, they’re well prepared and are ready to go.”
Scores, standings and results will be available at https://livescores.worldcurling.org/wjbcc/aspnet/current?EventID=2
Live streaming for the event has not been announced at this time.