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Curlers set for Northern Ontario playdowns

Women will play in a seven-team field, while 11 teams are competing for the men's championship.

THUNDER BAY — It hasn’t been the most consistent curling season for Krista McCarville, but the Thunder Bay skip hopes her team is ready to peak at just the right time.

McCarville, who lost a heartbreaker at Fort William Gardens in last year’s Scotties Tournament of Hearts championship, in 2023 is seeking her 10th berth at the national women’s curling championship, taking on six other teams from Jan. 24 to Jan. 29 in Kenora in the Northern Ontario play-downs.

They’ll be one of seven teams in the field next week, the first time a Northern Ontario Scotties has been staged since 2020. The past two years the Scotties representative was chosen by the Northern Ontario Curling Association.

“We haven’t played provincials in a few years, so it’s exciting knowing that we’re going to a competition, we’re going to provincials. It’s exciting knowing there are multiple teams and there’s new teams too, that are out there,” McCarville said.

“That’s what we play for. We play for the provincials. We play to get to the Scotties.”

Since 2015, the Northern Ontario winner has received a direct berth at the Scotties, an honour in the past won only by McCarville and Tracy Fleury. Krysta Burns was given the 2021 berth when Team McCarville — including lead Sarah Potts, second Ashley Sippala and third Kendra Lilly of Sudbury — declined.

The 40-year-old McCarville said they’re not taking anything for granted in Kenora.

“Any team can beat anyone out there. We know that it’s easy to struggle. It’s easy to play your game and still not do so well, so we need to go out there and we need to be focused, we need to be ready and I think we are,” she said.

Aside from Burns, also in the field are Thunder Bay’s Nicole Westlund-Stewart and Jennifer Briscoe, Stratton’s Jackie McCormick, Sudbury’s Bella Croisier and Fort Frances’ Hailey Beaudry.

The men’s side is even more crowded, with Brad Jacobs joining Jordan Chandler’s team in search of his 12th Northern Ontario crown in 14 years. Tanner Horgan is looking for his first Brier berth as a skip, and four Thunder Bay rinks will also be in the 11-team field, including squads skipped by Brian Adams Jr., Trevor Bonot, Kory Carr and first-timer Dallas Burgess.

Bonot, a former Canadian mixed champion, said he expects Jacobs and Chandler will gel, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be beaten.

“Together, who knows? They’re all individually great curlers, so we’re going to expect them to be a great team. And Tanner Horgan is playing in the Slam right now, so we’re going to have to go in there and play like we can. If we do that we’re going to be in a tough game and hopefully the right things go our way,” Bonot said.

Adams Jr. said it’ll be a challenge, but one his reformed foursome is ready to take on.

“To beat those guys, you’ve got to make a lot of shots and you have to play well with a lot of consistency. I think we’re capable of doing that and it’s going to be in an arena, so we know the surface is going to be really good … So it’s a matter of execution and staying really consistent,” he said.

Burgess, who won the Northern Ontario U18 title last year, said he’s looking forward to getting back into competitive play.

“We haven’t played together too much this year, but when we played together, we played really well. I’m looking forward to just keeping that momentum going into the men’s,” Burgess said.

The men’s tournament will be a triple-knockout format, while the women’s will be a traditional round robin event.

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith is Dougall Media's director of news, but still likes to tell your stories too. Wants his Expos back and to see Neil Young at least one more time. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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