THUNDER BAY – Hailey Beaudry has come pretty far, pretty fast.
A year ago the Fort Frances, Ont. curler had little luck at the Northern Ontario Scotties Tournament of Hearts, a four-team event in which Beaudry’s foursome managed but a single win in five outings.
Two months later the team was thrilling local fans with a runner-up at the national university curling championships, staged at the squad’s home Fort William Curling Club.
By December 2017 Team Beaudry – which includes Kendra Lemieux, Emily Cooney and Erin Tomalty – had been crowned Northern Ontario’s under-21 champions.
On Saturday they’ll begin their quest for a national title at the 2018 New Holland Canadian Junior Curling Championships in Shawinigan, Que., seeking to deliver Northern Ontario’s first women’s championship in the event’s 48-year history, the first junior title of any kind since Jeff Currie skipped his squad to the 1996 men’s title.
The excitement is building, Beaudry said on Tuesday night, before a send-off celebration held at the Fort William Curling Club.
“This is something we’ve been working toward for a long time. We’re just full of excitement and definitely Northwestern Ontario pride to be able to represent our club for the U-21 nationals,” Beaudry said.
Of course, they don’t just want to make an appearance.
Winning the event, especially after such a strong showing at last year’s university championships, is foremost on their mind.
Avoiding distractions is what Beaudry believes will deliver a title.
“We just need to remain calm and focused on the ice to succeed. We like trying to maintain a good positive atmosphere on the ice and from the provincials, we found when we worked toward that, we did play well and we really came together as a team really well.”
Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame inductee Dick Henderson, the team’s coach, said the Beaudry rink’s strongest suit is their aggressiveness on the ice.
“Hailey, she’s fearless. If you happened to see any of the university games last March, you always see that they play with lots of rocks in play. They’re not afraid to take chances,” Henderson said, adding it can be difficult to do at a national championship, where unfamiliarity with the other teams is uncommon.
“I know they know some of the teams from the U-Sport championships last season. And the ice will be a challenge.”
The junior nationals will be the first time the team has played on arena ice, but they’ve been getting lessons from the region’s top women’s team, Team McCarville lead Sarah Potts and her father, two-time world champion Rick Lang, joining them for a recent practice session.
That’s been a world of help, said Tomalty, who hails from Nestor Falls, Ont.
“They told us kind of what to expect – to put the rotation on the rocks and there’s going to be a lot more curl. It was really helpful because we haven’t been on arena ice before. It’s going to be different, but it’s going to be a good experience.”
Team Beaudry will take on Prince Edward Island’s Lauren Lenentine on Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m.