Started from the bottom, now we’re here
Major improvements from Saskatchewan’s Team Derksen aid in gold-medal game appearance
What a difference a year can make. Last season, Saskatchewan #1’s Team Dylan Derksen was leaving Under-18 nationals with only one win. This year, the team is one win away from a gold-medal performance in Ottawa.
The team from the Martensville Curling Club booked its spot in the 2024 Canadian Under-18 Curling Championships gold-medal game with an 11-3 semifinal victory over Nova Scotia #1’s Team Zach Atherton (Chester & Halifax Curling Clubs) on Friday night at the RA Centre.
“It’s crazy. Coming into this, we knew we had a shot, but now it feels unreal that we’re playing in the final at nationals,” Derksen said.
Saskatchewan started with hammer and gave up a steal in the second end, but countered with three in the third. Nova Scotia replied with a score of two in the fourth, but that’s all the momentum the team could muster. Skip Derksen, third Logan Sawicki, second Tyler Derksen (Dylan’s younger brother), lead Gavin Martens and coach Brad Kennedy hit the jets in the second half of the game, scoring three in the fifth and stealing five in the sixth to end the game.
It’s a complete turnaround for the team, which received a wake-up call when it competed at the 2023 Canadian U-18’s in Timmins, Ont., and tallied a one-win, five-loss round-robin record.
“We were the top team in Saskatchewan, but we hadn’t really seen teams out of the province. We came to nationals, and it was a big eye-opener to see the level of the teams there. We knew we had a lot of work to get up to that level. We put in the work during the offseason and are doing a lot better this year,” Derksen said.
The team’s plan included off-season physical training, working with a sports psychologist and playing in higher-calibre men’s events to gain more experience. Coach Kennedy has seen the work they’ve put in over the past year to make a total 180-degree turnaround. All that experience is now paying off, with the team rattling off seven consecutive wins to book a spot in the gold-medal game.
“We’re finding ways to win games last year, where we were finding ways to lose games last year. They’re another year older and were maybe a little intimidated last year, but this year, they know if they can play well, they can go head-to-head with anybody,” Kennedy said. “The hard work is done, and now they just have to go out and execute the game plan.”
Saskatchewan takes on Newfoundland & Labrador #1’s Team Simon Perry (RE/MAX Centre, St. John’s Curling Club) in the gold-medal game at 12:30 p.m. (all times ET). The east-coast skip has returned from the 2024 Youth Olympic Games in South Korea, where he represented Canada in mixed doubles.
Newfoundland & Labrador #1 defeated Quebec’s Team Raphaël Tremblay of the Grand-Mère Curling Club 9-4 in its semifinal.
Nova Scotia #1 faces Quebec in the bronze-medal game, also scheduled at 12:30 p.m.
In female action at the event, Quebec #1’s Team Jolianne Fortin (Kénogami Curling Club, Saguenay) cruised to an 8-1 win against Ontario #2’s Team Ava Acres (RCMP Curling Club, Ottawa) to earn a gold-medal game spot. In the other semifinal, Manitoba’s Team Shaela Hayward of the Carman Curling Club earned an 4-2 victory over Nova Scotia #1’s Team Rebecca Regan (Lakeshore Curling Club, Lower Sackville).
Quebec #1 takes on Manitoba in the gold-medal game, while Ontario #2 and Nova Scotia #1 face off for the bronze medal. Both games are scheduled for 4:30 p.m.