The New Holland World Juniors Qualifying Event is a one-off event intended to provide a short-term fix to a problem created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of the Canadian juniors in 2020. The men’s and women’s winners will head to the 2022 World Junior Curling Championships from March 5-12 in Jönköping, Sweden, as Team Canada.
It is one of two major curling events to be hosted in The City of Bridges, with the Tim Hortons Canadian Curling Trials, presented by AGI, already underway at SaskTel Centre.
The New Holland World Juniors Qualifying Event kicks off Monday at the Granite Curling Club in Saskatoon with 12 junior men’s and women’s teams representing Member Associations grouped into two pools of six. Teams play a five-game round robin that concludes on Thursday, and the top three teams in each pool advance to the playoffs.
The second- and third-ranked teams cross over and compete in the quarterfinals on Friday morning, while the top-ranked team in each pool will play the winners on Friday afternoon in the semifinals. The winners of those games compete in the final on Saturday afternoon with the chance to represent Team Canada on the line.
All 14 Member Associations received invitations to the event, with all but Yukon and Nunavut opting to send men’s and women’s teams to Saskatoon. [Curl PEI is sending the reigning PEI Jr. Men’s championship team, skipped by Mitchell Schut, and a Junior women’s foursome captained by Rachel MacLean.]
(L-R): Mitchell Schut (skip, throws 3rd), Chase MacMillan (vice-skip, throws 4th), Pat Quilty (coach), Cruz Pineau (2nd), Liam Kelly (lead)
The PEI Junior Women’s rink includes members from both teams in the final of the PEI Juniors last year and is comprised of skip Rachel MacLean, third Sydney Howatt, and second Lexie Murray, along with lead Abby Barker and coach David Murphy.
(L-R): Rachel MacLean (skip), Sydney Howatt (third), Lexie Murray (second), Coach: David Murphy. Not in photos: Abby Barker (lead)
There will be no shortage of junior talent featured at the event, with plenty of players having national and, in some cases, international experience.
On the men’s side, Youth Olympic Games mixed doubles gold-medallist Nathan Young will represent Newfoundland & Labrador as skip. Young aims to maintain the momentum gained from representing Canada on the international stage and his province’s. At the 2020 New Holland Canadian Juniors, Newfoundland & Labrador’s junior men’s team, skipped by Daniel Bruce, earned silver and was one game short of winning the event after advancing to the final.
One member of that silver-medallist team will also compete at the New Holland World Juniors Qualifying event. Joel Krats has joined Nova Scotia’s Owen Purcell as third this season. Purcell has competed at two New Holland Canadian junior events and earned gold for his province at the 2018 Canadian Under-18 Curling Championships.
Krats isn’t the only curler to represent a new Member Association on the men’s side. Johnson Tao, who skipped the British Columbia 2 team at the 2020 New Holland Canadian Juniors (B.C. had two representatives as host province), moved east to Alberta and leads Team Alberta. Team Tao, also in the University of Alberta curling program, includes Jaedon Neuert, who represented Canada at the 2020 Youth Olympic Games.
Neuert’s – and Young’s – Youth Olympic Games teammate Lauran Rajala will be at the event in Saskatoon, representing Northern Ontario as second. The team, skipped by Isabelle Ladouceur [which includes PEI’s Katie Shaw], has plenty of national experience, with third Jamie Smith and Rajala winning the 2019 Canada Winter Games and Canadian Under-18 gold medals during the same season. Ladouceur skipped Nova Scotia to a gold medal win at the 2018 Canadian Under-18’s.
While Ladouceur won’t be representing Nova Scotia, the province is still well-represented. Skip Taylour Stevens [which includes PEI’s Lauren Ferguson] had a strong showing at the 2020 New Holland Canadian Juniors with a bronze-medal victory. She’ll lead a re-tooled team into the New Holland World Junior Qualifying Event with high hopes of building on the pre-pandemic performance.
Meghan Walter skips the Manitoba women’s team. She’s already gained some national and international experience in the mixed discipline. In 2019 she won the mixed national title playing third for Manitoba and captured gold as part of Team Canada.
The winning teams at the New Holland World Junior Qualifying Event will travel to Fredericton’s Willie O’Ree Place for the 2022 Continental Cup, presented by Access Storage, and have an opportunity to train on the arena ice with Curling Canada’s national coaches before the world championships in Sweden.
Canada has won a leading 21 world junior men’s titles since 1975 and 13 women’s championships since 1988, including the most recent event in 2020 when Canada’s Jacques Gauthier and Mackenzie Zacharias swept the men’s and women’s crowns.
Junior curling in Canada gets back to its regularly scheduled programming this season with the 2022 New Holland Canadian Juniors in Stratford, Ont., from March 25-April 1. That event will feature a permanently expanded field of 18 teams for the first time, with the winners representing Canada at the 2023 World Junior Curling Championships (dates and location TBA by the World Curling Federation).
For 2021 New Holland World Juniors Qualifying Event live scores, results and rosters, click here.
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