Three players will head to Prince Albert, Sask., with a chance to make history at the 2019 New Holland Canadian Junior Men’s and Women’s Curling Championships.
The Canadian Under-21 Championships kick off Saturday at the Art Hauser Centre and the Prince Albert Golf and Curling Club.
Tyler Tardi and Sterling Middleton of the B.C. men’s team, and Karlee Burgess of the Nova Scotia women’s team, can become the first players in the history of the championships to win three times, with Tardi and Middleton having the opportunity to win all three in succession, after winning in 2017 at Victoria, B.C., and last year in Shawinigan, Que., while Burgess’s victories came in 2016 at Stratford, Ont., and last year in Shawinigan.
All three players ended last season as world champions with their victories at the 2018 World Junior Curling Championships in Aberdeen, Scotland.
Tardi and Middleton, the skip and vice-skip respectively for the B.C. team representing the Langley and Victoria Curling Clubs, are joined by a new front end this season, with second Matthew Hall having moved from Ontario, and Alex Horvath taking over at lead (Paul Tardi, Tyler’s dad, remains at coach). Hall’s Ontario team lost to Tardi’s B.C. team in the 2017 gold-medal game in Victoria.
Burgess, meanwhile, is at her familiar second position on the Nova Scotia team from Halifax skipped by Kaitlyn Jones, with Burgess’s cousin Lindsey at lead. New vice-skip Lauren Lenentine replaces the aged-out Kristin Clarke. Karlee Burgess and coach Andrew Atherton are the hold-overs from the 2016 Nova Scotia team, skipped by Mary Fay, that won Canadian and world junior gold.
[Besides Cornwall Curling Club member Lenentine, PEI will be represented by the Lauren Ferguson team, also from Cornwall, and the Tyler Smith rink from the Charlottetown Curling Complex. Summerside’s Alex Gallant is on the New Brunswick junior men’s team, skipped by Jack Smeltzer out of the Capital Winter Club in Fredericton.]
There will be no shortage of championship experience in Prince Albert; Tanner Horgan’s Northern Ontario team (Sudbury), which lost to Tardi in the final last year, and to Manitoba’s Matt Dunstone in the 2016 final, with a 2017 bronze medal in between is back; his younger brother Jake, who throws third rocks, skipped Northern Ontario to the 2017 Canadian Under-18 title.
The gold-medallist at the 2018 Under-18 Nationals, Nova Scotia’s Graeme Weagle (Chester), is taking his first crack at an Under-21 national title.
On the women’s side, 2017 Canadian U-18 winner Kira Brunton (Sudbury) is in the field representing Northern Ontario, as is 2018 U-18 runner-up Skyler Ackerman, who is skipping the Saskatchewan Host team from Moose Jaw.
B.C.’s Sarah Daniels will be back, looking to improve on the silver medal she won at the 2016 Canadian Juniors, where she lost the final to Nova Scotia’s Fay team.
And for good measure, the Saskatchewan champion women’s team skipped by Sara England (Regina; daughter of 1998 Olympic gold-medallist Sandra Schmirler) is coached by 1983 Canadian Junior Men’s champ Jamie Schneider.
Fourteen men’s and 14 women’s teams will compete for Canadian titles, separated into two seven-team pools per gender for an initial round robin, followed by a Championship Round (top four in each pool) leading to the playoffs. The top team advances to its respective final on Sunday, Jan. 27, while the second- and third-place teams meet in a semifinal on Saturday, Jan. 26, to determine the other finalist.
TSN/RDS2 will carry complete live coverage of the semifinals (women at 1 p.m. [all times CT], men at 7 p.m.) on Jan. 26 and finals (women at 10 a.m., men at 3 p.m.), held at the Art Hauser Centre.
The winning teams will then represent Canada on home ice at the 2019 World Junior Championships, Feb. 16-23 in Liverpool N.S. Canada has won a leading 19 world junior men’s titles since 1975 and a leading 12 women’s crowns since 1988.
The 2019 New Holland Canadian Juniors also is notable for the number of past recipients of the Curling Canada Foundation For The Love of Curling Scholarships — 17 over the past three years:
2018 — Tanner Horgan (Northern Ontario), Kaitlyn Jones (Nova Scotia), Ryan Lamswood (Newfoundland/Labrador), Dustin Mikush (Alberta), Kate Sherry (Northern Ontario), Selena Sturmay (Alberta)
2017 — Kira Brunton (Northern Ontario), Sarah Daniels (British Columbia), Sara Guy (Northern Ontario), Sarah Hoag (Saskatchewan), Megan Smith (Northern Ontario), Mackenzie Zacharias (Manitoba)
2016 — Karlee Burgess (Nova Scotia), Jessica Humphries (B.C.), Sterling Middleton (B.C.), Tyler Tardi (B.C.), Maxime Blais (Northern Ontario)
Saskatchewan will have three teams in the field with the added Host team on the women’s side due to the Yukon not sending a team. On the men’s side, Saskatoon’s Rylan Kleiter team will be carrying the home-province hopes. Saskatchewan has won 14 Canadian junior men’s titles (behind only Alberta with 16), the latest by Braeden Moskowy in 2011 at Calgary. Saskatchewan women’s teams have won a leading 11 gold medals, the most recent by Trish Paulsen to complete a Saskatchewan sweep in 2011.
Teams that don’t qualify for the Championship Pool will compete in a Seeding Pool to determine rankings for the 2020 New Holland Canadian Juniors (dates, location, TBA). Curlers on all non-playoff teams will participate in a mixed doubles competition on the final weekend.
The Canadian Junior Men?s Championship has been contested annually since its inception in 1950 at Quebec City. The first Canadian Junior Women?s Championship was played in 1971 at Vancouver.
For event information, visit www.curling.ca/2019juniors.