Over his time at RDC, Brad Hamilton has seen the curling program grow by leaps and bounds.
In the beginning, almost nine years ago he said half-jokingly they took anyone in the hall who might have thrown a rock before.
That built into a multi-national title winning team, including women’s championships in 2014 and last year, as well a national bronze for the men last year and silver in 2012.
This year is an entirely different animal for Hamilton, as the RDC head coach will oversee three new skips at the helms of the men’s and women’s team as well as the mixed group, but 10 returning players in all.
After the same skip on the women’s side for the past three years in Marla Sherrer (ACAC Female Curler of the Year 2016-2017) and Ryan Dahmer for the past four on the men’s side, both who have moved on, there has been no mention of rebuilding or resetting before another trip to nationals.
“We’ve never talked about that at all,” Hamilton said of a rebuild.
“The veterans have said there’s an expectation, we expect to make it to provincials and once we get to provincials we expect to make it to nationals and see what happens from there. We’re not really trying to reset.”
Red Deer’s own Austin Kelts-Larsen, a second year in the Bachelor of Education program will skip the men’s group, while third-year Sara McMann of Chauvin, will skip for the women’s team. Ashlyn Wozny, a third year from Rycroft is the skip of the mixed team.
Hamilton explained that the biggest obstacle this season will be recreating pressure packed situations late in games for the new skips.
“Trying to mimic those pressure situations, especially for the skips. OK here’s the last rock, it’s the eighth end or the extra end, let’s throw it until we get comfortable,” Hamilton said.
“Just trying to get that muscle memory in, that ‘hey, I’m used to doing that when it matters’.”
The season started on the right foot for the men, who went 5-o in the Fall Regional qualifier in St. Paul on the weekend, and not ideally for the other two teams.
The Queens finished 3-3 but expected better and the mixed squad finished 2-3.
“It’s more, how are you going to handle throwing those last two rocks and (Austin) seemed to deal with that a little bit better,” Hamilton said.
“The other two, they kind of had a couple of big shots at the end of games and we made half of them and we missed half of them. That’s why we’re where we are at.
“To me, I’m OK with where they’re at now. We’re just going to build through the year and I think it will get better.”
The teams will all play in league nights throughout December, then gear up in the new year for the second regional bonspiel.
The top four teams from that advance to provincials and from there, the top few advance to nationals.