Two young P.E.I. curlers have shared some special memories coming up through junior programs.
They hope to add another chapter to that book over the next week.
Rachel O’Connor of Charlottetown, and Tyler Smith of Hunter River, will be representing P.E.I. in their final New Holland Canadian junior under-21 curling championships in Langley, B.C. Their journey, however, started 12 years ago.
“I ended up winning my first provincials back in 2008 in Crapaud,” recalled O’Connor, lead with the Lauren Ferguson rink out of the Cornwall Curling Club. “Three other girls picked me up to play on their team for that.
“Tyler won the same year for under-12 in Crapaud and my brother (Noah) was actually curling on his team when they won, which was pretty neat, too.
“Then, about three years ago, I won my first under-21 provincials and Tyler won that year as well with my brother on the team, and we all went to Victoria, B.C., for nationals back in 2017.”
Another interesting tidbit is O’Connor and Smith won their first provincial championship on the same day at the Crapaud Community Curling Club, the site of their most recent and final provincial junior titles – also on the same day, Dec. 29.
“I’ve been to a few more nationals since then and now we are both finishing off our junior careers in Langley, B.C.,” said O’Connor, 21. “That was pretty neat that we both won our last junior provincials in the Crapaud Curling Club, where it kind of all began.
“It is pretty neat and it doesn’t happen too often.”
Asked what he remembers about his first provincial title, Smith said his team had to play a tiebreaker to get to the final.
“I don’t really remember much about the final, but for some reason, I remember that it was on Ice 3 in Crapaud,” said Smith. “I remember the tiebreaker more than I remember the final.”
As fate would have it, Smith’s Montague Curling Club rink clinched his fifth provincial junior title as skip on the same sheet of ice.
“That is ironic,” added a chuckling Smith, 21.
O’Connor said it's pretty cool that she and Smith can look back on their accomplishments together.
“Right after we both won we were going over it and brought out an old news article from when we both won back in 2008 and were talking about it,” said O’Connor.
“It’s kind of crazy where we’ve gotten and everything. It’s pretty cool we get to end our junior career together at the same time at the same club.”
The O’Connor and Smith families have become familiar with each other over the years.
“We were always in the same events,” said Smith. “Rachel’s teams and the teams I was on would usually play the same tournaments around the Maritimes.
“Her brother played with me for a few years and we went to the Canada Games and the national juniors with him. We’ve been around each other for a while.”
P.E.I. rinks hoping to make championship round of junior nationals
Two P.E.I. rinks are entering the 2020 New Holland Canadian junior under-21 curling championships with high expectations.
The Lauren Ferguson rink from the Cornwall Curling Club will compete for the women’s title while Tyler Smith and his Montague Curling Rink team will pursue the boys’ crown.
“We are hoping to win as many games as we can,” said Smith. “I think we have a pretty good shot at it and it will be one of the better chances we’ve had.”
The skip, who will be attending his sixth junior nationals, is hoping his experienced rink can draw on past experiences. Smith, third stone Ryan Abraham and lead Ryan Lowery have all attended previous junior nationals and this will mark the debut for second stone Jake Flemming, whose father, Paul, represented Nova Scotia at numerous national events, including the Brier.
“Three of the four guys all have quite a bit of experience and one new guy who will catch on quick,” said Smith. “It’s a long event, so we are hoping the experience will help us at the end of the week. Maybe when some of the other teams are starting to get tired mentally, physically or both, and we have the experience to keep pushing through.”
Ferguson’s teammates are third stone Sydney Howatt, second stone Kristie Rogers and lead Rachel O’Connor, who got the team together after last season.
“I couldn’t ask for better teammates,” said O’Connor. “They have been amazing and are dedicated to the sport. Our hard work paid off for sure (in winning the provincials).”
This year will mark O’Connor’s fifth time competing in a national championship. Team Ferguson isn't just happy to be there, either.
“We are hoping to make it to at least to the championship round and we’ll see how we do from there,” said O’Connor.
The top-five teams qualify for the championship round.