Canadian Senior Curling championships go this week
Both local teams earned the right to don the colours of Northern Ontario at the 2014 Canadian Seniors Curling Championships in Yellowknife this week, the first time in recent memory that Sudbury has produced both entries in the same year.
In fact, the tradition for Hong and Dumontelle carries back one year further, with both men part of the Eric Harnden rink that cracked the all-Canada competition in 2011 in Digby, N.S.
Enjoying an 8-0 performance at NOCA Provincials in Sturgeon Falls, Team Gordon credited something of a tried and true strategy for some of their success.
"We sort of kept the same schedule as the last year that we qualified for nationals," explained Gordon at a send-off party last week. "We've played hard since Christmas time and probably have the better of 60 games under our belt since Jan. 1. We feel good, ready to go."
With more than a month having passed since provincials, the momentum of a near-flawless week may have faded somewhat for Gordon and company, though the experienced skip will be the first to admit that the team seemingly caught lightning in a bottle.
"It was just one of those weeks where everything went well," said Gordon. "I didn't throw a rock in the 10th end the entire week. In fact, we played the 10th end only one time. That's unusual — we're not that good.
"We picked up the ice quickly, we got a few breaks and we took advantage."
With three years to grow as a team and one trip to nationals already on their resume, the Gordon quartet are anxious for this second kick at the can.
"The first year was a big learning curve for me, learning their deliveries, their releases, their tendencies," said Gordon. "Over the three years, we've gotten better and better at that."
Still, the challenge was not made easier given the fact Northern Ontario was going to have to survive the pre-qualifying round just to continue on to the main event. After a 9-8 setback to Yukon (George Hilderman) last Thursday, the Gordon rink bounced Nunavut 7-1 before safely sliding through with a 9-3 win over Newfoundland.
With the nerves starting to settle down, Northern Ontario overcame an early 3-1 deficit against the Northwest Territories (Glen Hudy) on Saturday, scoring three in the fifth end and stealing two in the 10th to secure an 8-5 win.
In the fourth draw on Sunday afternoon, Team Gordon opened up a 5-0 lead after three ends, outscoring Manitoba 7-4 to improve to 2-0. The two-game winning streak came to an end later that night as Nova Scotia (Alan O'Leary) remained unbeaten at 3-0, handing Northern Ontario their first loss, beating Gordon 8-5.
All in all, the attraction of Yellowknife might well have the Sudbury curlers the most excited of any bonspiel that they have attended to date.
"Smaller communities always do these things up big," said Gordon. "I've been told that the end of March is a great time for the Northern Lights up there."
These thoughts were echoed by Barrett, who returns her entire team of Margaret McLaughlin, Valerie MacInnes and Brenda Harrow to the Senior Canadians for a second straight year, having posted a record of 6-5 last spring in Prince Edward Island.
"I think we get better every time we go," said Barrett, who first took a team to Senior Nationals back in 2007, when the competition was hosted in Trois-Rivières. "We learn how to adjust and we learn different strategies.
"As we age, the outlook on a game will change, so we are not as offensive as we may have been at one time," Barrett added.
Unlike the men, the Northern Ontario ladies were able to avoid the pre-qualifying round by virtue of their record in 2013, with the bottom two teams needing to play their way back into the field.
"Because of the way they are running things, it's really stressful until you get a certain number of wins under your belt," said Barrett. "You don't want to be the team that causes the relegation the next year."
The Barrett rink matched the Gordon crew in running the table at provincials, reeling off five straight wins, capped by a 7-3 victory over hometown favourite Peggy Taylor in Kenora.
Making her fourth trip to Seniors, Barrett knows exactly the pitfalls to watch for.
"You try not and let any kind of intimidation set in," she said, noting the presence of many ladies who have been regular visitors to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
"A lot of it has to do with me," she continued. "I have to read the ice and I have to do that very quickly."
With five draws in the books, the Barrett rink is still trying to get untracked in Yellowknife, falling to the Northwest Territories (7-5), Manitoba (7-4) and Nova Scotia (8-5).
Both teams were in action Monday morning, with the men battling Yukon, looking for redemption for the pre-qualifying loss, while the ladies look to hit the win volumn against Newfoundland.