Laurier, Laurentian looking to recapture golden efforts at 2018 curling championship

Laurier, Laurentian looking to recapture golden efforts at 2018 curling championship

BURLINGTON, Ont. – The Laurier Golden Hawks are no stranger to success at the OUA Curling Championship, as the men will look to bring home a fourth consecutive provincial title, but the first-time winners from Laurentian’s women’s team will look to double down on their historic win last year to find the top of the podium once again.

Details surrounding the upcoming championship can be found in the 2018 Curling Championship Fan Guide.

There has been no shortage of curling excellence at Laurier, as both past and present Golden Hawks have soared to success. But while alumni like John Morris and Brent Laing have moved on to participate at the 2018 Olympic Games, the current squad will be looking to continue to carry the torch.

After carrying the purple and gold to their ninth men’s title in program history in his OUA championship debut, Matt Hall will strive for similar results in his encore effort. Coming off of a 2016-17 season in which he led Laurier to the aforementioned OUA title, defeating the Gaels in the gold medal match; tied for fourth at the U SPORTS Championship, losing a tiebreaker to qualify for the playoffs; and represented Ontario for the second consecutive year at the Canadian Juniors, where he also finished tied for fourth, the reigning Second-Team OUA All-Star will once again have high hopes for 2018.

Hall will be joined by fellow returnees Jordie Lyon-Hatcher (vice) and Kenny Malcolmson (second), along with the new addition of Connor Lawes, nephew of Olympics Mixed Doubles Curling participant Kaitlyn Lawes, who played lead for Queen’s in 2015-16.

The similarly successful women’s squad – who have won five of the last seven OUA titles – had their three-year winning streak snapped at last year’s event, but will look to do better than their quarter-final departure in 2018 with an almost entirely new squad. The only remaining remember from last year’s group is Riley Sandham, who moves from second to vice. Joining Sandham is skip Kaitlin Jewer, along with fellow newcomers Kelly Middaugh – daughter of curling greats Wayne and Sherri Middaugh - and Bridget Ribau.

Taking top spot away from the Hawks was the defending champion Laurentian women’s squad, which remains intact from a year ago when they took the curling world by storm at provincials. Led by skip Krysta Burns, the group features a winning pedigree with fellow returnees Sara Guy (2017 OUA First-Team All-Star), Laura Masters, and Megan Smith.

It was certainly a winning year for the foursome, as the quartet not only led the Voyageurs to provincial glory, but also carried their momentum all the way to a U SPORTS title – defeating fellow OUA school Lakehead in the finals. They weren’t done there, however, as the talented team also earned bronze at the Canadian Juniors in 2017, and saw additional competition on the international stage. Burns and company earned three wins while representing Canada at the China Qinghai International bonspiel in December; experience that should go a long way toward their march for repeat success this weekend.

The men’s team, despite some tough results at last year’s event, will be led by two members of the Tanner Horgan rink that earned a silver medal at the Canadian Juniors and just this past weekend, fell to Brad Jacobs in the Northern Ontario final. Skip Tanner Horgan, who will be making his way to the 2018 Brier next month as the fifth for Team Jacobs, and vice Maxime Blais will be looking to take the championship by storm, similar to their fellow Voyageurs did last year on the women’s side, and will enter play carrying some noticeable momentum.  

Playing host to these reigning champions, and the entirety of the OUA curling elite, will be Algoma University, and there is no shortage of excitement surrounding the northern hosts. Sault Ste. Marie is pleased to welcome the top university curlers […] to our city,” says Mayor Christian Provenzano. “This is the first time Algoma University has hosted [this] great event, and the fact they are doing so this year speaks to the progression of athletics at the university.”

When it comes to the host Thunderbirds, they will be looking to put on a strong showing in front of their hometown fans, and they’ll do so at the Community First Curling Centre – home of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic champions and university alumni, Team Jacobs.

In his last year curling for Algoma, skip Johnathan Lalonde will look to build on the team’s 2-3 finish from the season and turn his 15 years of experience into a top tier finish when he throws his last rocks. It’s a similar story on the women’s side, as seven-year veteran and team skip Lauren Rogers, will also look to find success in her final season with the Thunderbirds. A 1-4 record during the season has sparked a sense of redemption among the team; something they will look to turn into a winning formula as the look forward to taking on the best the province has to offer.  

From this year’s hosts to last year’s, the UOIT Ridgebacks men’s squad will turn to a trio of returning players to spark their podium push. Colin Shaw (skip), Nick Mayede, and Samuel Buckle will look to bring their squad back to the playoffs for the first time since 2015, and while the goal is similar for the women’s side, such a feat would be the first for the female Ridgebacks.

After hosting the championship in 2017, the women’s team overhauled their lineup, as it now features three new curlers. Brittany Andrey and Emily Gordon are back from last year, while Courtney Stafford returns to the team from the 2015 squad that posted their best ever provincial championship result.

The Ryerson Rams program may be new – now in their third year – but they were quick to find success on the women’s side with a silver medal showing at last year’s championship. Despite falling to the Voyageurs in the gold medal match, the Rams showed that they are a top threat, and will look to double down with a returning roster that includes skip Maggie Macintosh, as well as OUA and U SPORTS All-Star Nicole Titkai.

The men, meanwhile, will be skipped by Alex Champ, a reigning OUA Second-Team All-Star and a member of the Team Retchless, who competed at the Ontario Tankard Provincial Championship. Along with Champ, a young roster feature sophomore Jonathan U and a pair of freshmen will be looking to earn the Rams a playoff berth and improve upon their 4-3 record at last year’s OUA finale.

Joining the Rams on the national stage this past year were the Lakehead Thunderwolves, who played host to the U SPORTS championship. Despite failing to reach the playoffs at the OUA finale, the Thunderwolves made the most of their national presence, as the women’s team, skipped by Hailey Beaudry, earned silver. Beaudry, along with Kendra Lemieux (third), Emily Cooney (second), and Erin Tomalty (lead) not only found success on the U SPORTS stage, but also made their presence felt at the 2018 Canadian Juniors, representing Northern Ontario at the event.  All in all, the team should be a threat to improve upon their OUA finish last year and contend for the podium up north.

Toronto’s women, meanwhile, who are led by first year skip Mackenzie Kiemele, have had a strong 2017-18 season thus far. Most recently, the Varsity Blues went 4-1 to claim the bronze medal at the Brock University Invitational. The team is also coming off of a similar championship effort last year, wherein the bronze medal winning women’s squad upended the defending champion Hawks before bowing out to eventual winners, Laurentian. Kiemele will benefit from the fourth year veteran presence of vice Deborah Hawkshaw and second Sabrina Ribau, while fellow rookie Michelle Miller will serve as lead for U of T.

On the flip side, the Blues men will look to bounce back from a tough weekend at the Brock University Invitational. A squad that finished fourth at last year’s championship, Toronto is led by second year skip Justin Chung, while veteran Jacob Weber will serve as second. Rookies Sebastian Gajewski and James Ty will round out the team at lead and vice, respectively,

There will be a clear youth vibe for Waterloo, meanwhile, but both the men’s and women’s Warriors squads will be turning to their third year to lead the way. Beyond women’s skip Melissa Wong, the team will be looking at a combination of first and second year curlers to help the Warriors earn a playoff berth; something they fell just short of last year. Third-year John Willsey, who in 2016 led the Warriors to a national championship berth, will also look to build on the men’s team’s 4-3 record and quarterfinal finish from last year’s provincial event.

Also looking to extend their push for an OUA title further than their most recent efforts are the Trent Excalibur, as neither the men’s nor the women’s squad snagged a playoff spot in 2017. If they want to improve on last year’s performance, they can look to their showing at the recent Brock Invitational for inspiration. Both Excalibur teams placed third in the round robin, with the women earning silver overall and the men’s just missing the podium in fourth.

Additional teams to watch out for across the championship action include the Queen’s Gaels, who after going 6-1 in men’s round robin play at last year’s event, made their way to the finals before being bested by the Hawks in the golden medal match. The Carleton Ravens women will look to make their way onto the podium after falling just shy in their bronze medal match last year against Brock, while the Badgers will not only look to repeat their podium finish from last year, but also avenge their quarterfinal defeat on the women’s side to knock them out of medal contention.  Helping the Niagara school to do so will be men’s skip Eric Bradey – a 2017 OUA Second-Team All-Star and women’s skip Terri Weeks, who earned an OUA First-Team All-Star nod last season.

Rounding out the field at this year’s championship will be the Guelph Gryphons, McMaster Marauders, and Western Mustangs.

The championship, which will take place at the Community First Curling Club in Sault Ste. Marie, will commence on Thursday, February 15, with Draw 1 starting at 9:00am. Round robin play will continue through Sunday, February 18, with quarterfinal action starting at 7:00pm. Competition will conclude on Monday, with semifinals at and finals, to be followed by banner and medal presentations.

Following the Ontario finale, a minimum of two schools from the OUA will proceed to compete for a national title at the University of Alberta on March 24-28.