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Junior curling provincials a success on and off the ice

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The 2020 TELUS Junior Men’s and Women’s Provincials are in the books, with a new men’s champion featuring a Dauphin curler. The women’s champion defended her title from last year.
Brett Walter’s Assiniboine Memorial Curling Club foursome, with lead Lawson Yates of Dauphin, second Zachary Wasylik and third Thomas Dunlop, beat clubmate Jacques Gauthier, 8-7 in the men’s final to secure the provincial title.
Both teams had already qualified for nationals by reaching the final.
Yates was ecstatic at becoming a provincial champion.
“Playing in my hometown in the finals has been a dream for me. And it was a lifelong dream to win the buffalo, so I’m really happy that the boys and I were able to punch our ticket to nationals,” he said.
“We played an excellent week and we came out on top, so we’re super happy.”
Being able to play for a provincial title in his hometown was a surreal experience for Yates.
“Growing up in the (curling) rink just next door to here, it’s been awesome throwing on that ice forever and its great to see Credit Union Place looking so good with the arena ice in it. I’m just really happy with the way the week turned out,” he said.
Aside from playing well, Yates said, the team was able to keep its emotions in check and they managed to stay positive throughout the week, which was a key to winning in the end.
“That gave us the advantage and able to keep calm when we needed to make some pressure shots,” he added.
Gauthier was going for his fourth straight provincial title as he was the third on J.T. Ryan’s foursome which won the last three men’s provincial championships.
Knowing they were playing against someone with that much championship experience was a bit nerve-wracking, Yates said. But knowing they were still going to nationals win or lose, took some of the pressure off.
“But we pushed just as hard and we’re really happy,” he added.
Yates and company, along with Gauthier and his team, will now compete in the 2020 New Holland Canadian Juniors, Jan. 18 to 26 in Langley, B.C.
Competing in his first nationals event, Yates has one goal in mind and that is to make the playoffs.
Mackenzie Zacharias of Altona scored five in the third end en route to a 10-4 win over Serena Gray-Withers of the Granite Curling Club to win her second straight women’s provincial crown.
Zacharias, whose team includes third Karlee Burgess, second Emily Zacharias and lead Lauren Lenintine, went undefeated, winning all nine games they played.
“We came into this bonspiel with a lot of goals and I think we achieved them all this week, which was really awesome. We tried not think about it too much during the week. And I think we just got ourselves where we wanted to be, in the game we wanted to be in,” she said.
“We came out really strong and we came out firing. Everything we worked for throughout the season came together in this last game.”
Zacharias and her sister Emily came into this year’s event as defending champions. The experience they gained in winning the provincial crown last year, helped them repeat.
“We came into this event, not expecting to go undefeated. But we conditioned for this all year and it just worked out for us,” she said.
Zacharias will now compete in the 2020 New Holland Canadian Juniors, Jan. 18 to 26 in Langley, B.C.
Knowing what to expect this time around, Zacharias plans to take it one day at a time, while setting some goals for the team.
“And hopefully, we can achieve those goals. We’re all super excited to get out there and we can’t wait,” she said, adding her thanks to everyone who attended the event.
Dauphin’s Lane Prokopowich is the lead on Gray-Withers team and she had a memorable week, winning the Susan Galbraith Sportsmanship Award as voted on by the players.
“It was awesome. Honestly, I didn’t really expect it considering there’s so many nice curlers out here and everyone was deserving of it. So it was a great honour to win it here. That was really nice,” she said.
As for the tournament itself, Prokopowich said the team gave it their all throughout the week, but did not get the outcome they wanted in the final.
“But we didn’t give up,” she added.
Giving up five in the third end was tough, but Prokopowich was confident the team could overcome that deficit.
“I didn’t have a doubt in my mind that the game was over. So we just had to keep going and take it shot by shot and see what would happen,” she said.
Curling in a hockey rink, especially in her hometown, was an amazing experience.
“The ice was amazing. Everything was just so good. And to be in my hometown was pretty great,” she said, adding she knew her team had a good chance at winning the championship.
“But I didn’t want to get my hopes up. So it was a pretty good feeling to be out there in the final this year,” she said.
Gord Wood of the host committee said they received a great response from the community.
“We had a wonderful turnout. Ticket sales were really good. Great support by Curl Manitoba, our title sponsor. The ice crew was amazing. They came in here and put together a world-class event in a matter of a few days. So it was just wonderful ice conditions,” he said.
“It was great support and training for our facility, as well. So a special thanks people like to Matt and Greg and the ice crew.”
Overall, Wood said it was an awesome experience for the curling club as a whole, as well as the community.
Resby Coutts of Curl Manitoba felt the week was a success.
“It was tremendously well organized by the folks here. The volunteers and the Dauphin Curling Club people are a wonderful organization,” he said.
“And spectacular curling. We have such fine, top to bottom in the entire competition, wonderful young curlers with a great understanding of the game and great ability to make shots. And a great ability to win and lose with a fair bit of grace. It was just an excellent event.”
There were six teams from the Parkland competing throughout the week and Parkland curlers were spread throughout the rest of the field, as well.
“It was nice to be able to have so many local kids or kids that have been within our programs. It was just wonderful to see those kids that have grown up within the community and now are venturing out and having success in the sport,” he said.
“And then, of course, the fact that a lot of these young kids that volunteered or their parents volunteered and they were here hanging out at the event, they will maybe have the opportunity do this someday themselves.”
The number of curlers competing during the week with ties to the Parkland, Coutts said, is a testimony to the junior curling programs operating in the region.
“They are well respected right across the province. It’s just a tremendous number of kids and a tremendous number of very successful kids,” he added.
“It’s a wonderful testimony to their effort, but also to the dedication of the coaches and the teachers who have made the programs work.”
As for when Dauphin may host another provincial curling event, Coutts said there are a number of interesting opportunities ahead.
“This venue is the perfect size for some of the smaller championships. And it’s the perfect size for events beyond the Manitoba border, too. You can think beyond the Manitoba Scotties. There are various scales of events,” he said.

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Doug Zywina
REPORTER
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