As a two-time world junior women’s curling champion, Kelsey Rocque has obviously accomplished everything she could at that level.
Now, in her first season at the helm of a women’s foursome, the Edmonton skip is threatening to make some major noise at the next level.
Rocque and her supporting cast of third Laura Crocker, second Taylor McDonald and lead Jen Gates downed reigning women’s world champ Alina Paetz of Switzerland 9-8 in Monday’s championship final of the Red Deer Curling Classic at the Pidherney Centre.
Two sheets over, Mick Lizmore of Edmonton rallied from a 3-1 deficit to defeat Jason Ackerman of Regina 5-3 in the men’s final.
The women’s finale featured a trio of three-enders, two by the winning rink. Rocque scored three in the seventh for a 9-6 lead and defending Classic champ Paetz had a shot — albeit a difficult one — at scoring three in the eighth and forcing an extra end, but could only count a pair.
‘There was definitely a lot of offence in that game, a lot of missed opportunities for both sides,” said Rocque.
“They’re a great team. We knew it would be a game that went right to the end.”
With all of her junior success and fresh off a second world title in March in Tallin, Estonia, Rocque hit the ground running while moving into the women’s category full time this fall. It didn’t hurt that her teammates backed former Manitoba champion Chelsey Carey last season.
“It’s simply just curling, but this definitely is a higher level. You can’t miss as many shots and you don’t get as many breaks,” said the rookie women’s skip. “But I got pretty fortunate getting three girls who are fantastic in front of me. It’s been a pretty good ride for me so far.”
The winner’s cheque for $9,000 will keep the Rocque foursome near the top of the World Curling Tour money list with total earnings of $28,400. The quartet also plans on chasing the Alberta women’s title this year and a berth in the 2016 Scottie’s Tournament of Hearts.
“We have high hopes for this season,” said Rocque. “We want to do well in all the (WCT) events we play in and hopefully make a good run at provincials.”
Ironically, all four of this year’s Classic finalists came out of the A event. In other words, none suffered a loss until the last draw.
“We had a few hiccups along the way, but for the most part we played well,” said Rocque. “It was a successful weekend for our team.”
The Paetz foursome picked up $6,000 as runners-up.
Meanwhile, the Lizmore crew stole their way to victory in the men’s final, swiping a single point in the sixth and two more in the seventh for the margin of victory.
Ackerman had a chance to take control of the contest in the third end, but his final stone picked during a hit attempt for three and he had to settle for a single point and a 1-1 tie. His team split $7,000.
“We definitely dodged a few bullets,” said Lizmore. “They had a couple of unfortunate picks, but I must say we did a good job of fighting to stay in the game. We had some breaks go our way.”
The winning foursome pocketed a cheque for $10,000, of which a portion will likely go to temporary lead Dan Sherrard, who replaced Carter Lautner for Monday’s three playoff games. Lautner, a college student, was writing mid-term exams in Edmonton.
After qualifying out of the A event Saturday, Lizmore’s crew had Sunday off before returning to competition in the Monday morning quarter-finals.
“The nice thing about these events is they give you access to practice ice,” said the skip. “But not playing as many games as most of the rinks here could be an advantage once you get to Monday. You get to rest up more.
“Mind you, it doesn’t affect me much one way or the other. My teammates are doing all the good work.”
The Lizmore foursome, which also includes third Daylan Vavrek and second Brad Chyz, came into the Classic sitting 36th on the WCT men’s money list with earnings of $4,850.
“This is our first year together as a team and we’ve progressed as the season has gone on,” said Lizmore.
The eventual men’s champions defeated 2014 Classic winner Josh Heidt of Kerrobert, Sask., 6-4 in the semifinals after scoring a 5-4 quarter-final win over Dean Joanisse of New Westminster.
Ackerman was an 8-6 quarter-final winner over Charley Thomas of Calgary and prevailed 8-2 over a Korean foursome skipped by Soo Hyuk Kim in the semifinals. In the other quarter-final games, Heidt downed Wade White of Edmonton 5-3 and Kim edged Bruce Korte of Saskatoon 6-5.
The losing quarter-finalists picked up cheques for $3,000 and the unsuccessful semifinalists garnered $5,000.
In the women’s semifinals, Rocque knocked off Nadine Chyz of Calgary 7-3 and Paetz was a 7-6 winner over Carey’s Calgary foursome, stealing a point in an extra end after scoring two in the eighth. The Chyz and Carey foursomes each pocketed $4,000.
In quarter-final play, Rocque beat Sijia Liu of China 5-2, Paetz was a 7-1 winner over Kalynn Park of Calgary, Carey got past Casey Scheidegger of Lethbridge 7-6 and Chyz downed Jie Mei of China 6-1. The losing quarter-final rinks each came away with $2,000.