By Tim Gall
Dreams came true over the weekend for two Prince Edward Island curling teams when they achieved their goal of playing on the national stage.
The results on the ice weren’t quite as pretty as the teams combined for two wins in five starts.
Tyler Smith and his rink of Alex Sutherland, Alex Jenkins, and Jonathan Schut recorded the Island’s first victory Sunday afternoon in the team’s third game at the M&M Meat Shops Canadian Junior Curling Championships. Smith, 14, is the youngest skip in the nine-day boys competition that got underway in Fort McMurray, Alta. Saturday.
The Smith foursome secured a 9-5 victory in eight ends against the newest team in the event, representing Nunavut. The team fell 7-3 and 7-6 in its first two games Saturday against Yukon and Saskatchewan, respectively.
“The win was amazing, we came out strong and powered through straight until the finish,” said Sutherland, the 19-year-old vice of the team. “With only one game (Sunday) our focus was really high and we managed to make the necessary shots to win.”
“The first game we kind of fell flat coming out and were caught off guard on the speed of the ice . . . but we regrouped and came out strong (in our second game),” Sutherland said.
“It felt really good to wear the P.E.I. crest and to represent the Island on this stage,” he added. “We weren’t performing quite up to our full potential the first two games, so we hope to bring our play up a notch for our games later on in the week.”
He said the opening weekend was awesome.
“The atmosphere was amazing and the energy around the whole facility was unbelievable. I had played at the college nationals last year, but it wasn’t near as invigorating as playing at this level.”
“Personally, I am really looking forward to Monday because we are playing two crucial games against B.C. and Ontario and I’m really looking forward to competing against these teams.”
On the junior girls side of the event, the rink of Veronica Smith (no relation to Tyler), Katie Fullerton, Sabrina Smith, and Chloe McCloskey opened the championships Saturday with an 8-6 loss against Manitoba before coming back to steal a win Sunday night, 6-5, over Quebec. Like the junior men, the women represent the Cornwall Curling Club.
“The girls played outstanding in our game,” pointed out Veronica. “We played very well as a team and made each shot as a team. The experience was absolutely amazing, it is everything that you dream it is going to be.”
“It was absolutely a dream come true,” the skip stated. “As a young curler, this is the moment that you wait for and when it comes, it’s so surreal!”
Smith said she is excited about the entire week to come. “The overall event will be something that I will never forget and always remember. For the rest of the week, I hope to have good games, and enjoy this experience with three other girls who have put their heart and soul into making it here.”
She said the team is facing tough opponents.
“Each team has won out of their province, so we know each game will be competitive with many good games. We just know we have to play our game and worry about our shots.”
Fullerton, who throws leads rocks and curled 89 per cent in the first game to lead all but one other player in draw two, echoed the sentiments of her skip.
“The experience was amazing to finally play a game at nationals. The whole atmosphere here is outstanding, the ice is incredible and having fans out on the ice cheering for us is terrific. We played great our first game and I’m excited for many more good games to come.”
“It felt like a dream come true to be on the national stage,” she added. “The lights shine onto the ice from every angle and the ice sparkles. It’s beautiful! I’m so proud of my team for working so hard all year and reaching our goal to make it to the nationals. We are thrilled to be representing P.E.I.”