The Red Deer College curling program opens the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference season this weekend surrounded in the great unknown.
They are the defending national champions in women’s curling but return only one player from that rink. Meanwhile their men’s and mixed teams are still in the developmental phase.
They will see just where they are at as they host the ACAC fall regional this weekend at the Pidherney Curling Centre.
The round robin tournament will feature some of the best college rinks in the country, including the defending men’s Canadian Colleges Athletic Association champion MacEwan University Griffins (skip Jordan Steinke, Benjamin Bissell, Tristan Steinke and Brett Winfield), and the defending ACAC women’s champion NAIT Ooks (skip Karynn Flory, Richelle Baer, Klara Smiley and Kaitlyn Roskewich).
The bonspiel is a purely round robin tournament with each team getting six games. They will be added to their records following the winter bonspiel in at the end of January with the top four teams in each division advancing to provincials.
“It’s an overall record of the two weekends, so you hate to be out of it after the first weekend — you go .500 and you stay in the running at least,” said head coach Brad Hamilton. “Then you have two months before the next one happens to get a lot better if need be.”
Second Courtney Smith is the lone returning member of the Queens rink, skipped by Kaitlyn Sherrer, that went on a Cinderella run at last year’s CCAA’s. This year the rink is skipped by freshman Marla Sherrer and features fellow first years Julie Selvais at third and Sarah Gerrard at lead.
Lacombe products Selvais and Gerrard are the only ones who had curled together prior to this season, though as a group they are showing a lot of promise, sitting undefeated in the Red Deer ladies league.
“So far so good, they get a long really well, they communicate really well, which is a good thing,” said Hamilton. “It will be interesting to see what happens when things don’t go quite as well as they have been going. … This weekend will be a good test.”
The men’s team is coming off a difficult season in which they did not win a game at either the ACAC fall or winter bonspiels, but they do return three out of the four members of that team. Red Deer’s Ryan Dahmer is back at skip, Jeffrey Ireland at third and Logan Oddie at lead, the lone newcomer is Ponoka’s Maul Maas at second.
Hamilton is hoping to see them take a big step forward this year.
“They should have won a few games last year but their lack of experience probably cost them more than anything else,” said Hamilton. “They’re a year older, they’ve experienced the curling now so I’m hoping for better things now but they do have some strategy things every once in a while that do hurt them.”
Hamilton is not sure what to expect out of RDC’s mixed team. They are a brand new team this year with five freshman filling out the lineup: skip Chloe Logelin, third Luke Nibourg, second Tremayne Smith, lead Robert Raincock and spare Cyril House.
“They’ve been together since the first of October,” said Hamilton. “The way college curling is right now, there’s nationals for the men’s and the women’s there isn’t for the mixed, so the majority of the colleges put their four best women on the women’s team and their four best men on the men’s team and then after that the mixed team is picked. They’re somewhat of a development team … we’re probably somewhere in the middle — I guess we’ll find out this weekend.”
The winter tournament will be hosted by MacEwan University, Grande Prairie Regional College is hosting provincials and Olds College nationals.
Other top teams this weekend at the fall tournament in Red Deer include the MacEwan women, Olds College and Lakeland College.
The bonspiel starts on Friday at 4 p.m. with the final draw going on Sunday at noon.
“My goal is to get everyone to provincials,” said Hamilton. “The way we are at RDC, if we’re not here to go to provincials then I’m not sure why we’re doing it.”
• Queens volleyball player Miranda Dawe was named ACAC women’s athlete of the week, as she helped lead RDC to a sweep over the undefeated Olds College Broncos.
• RDC volleyball has a home-and-home series with the SAIT Trojans, host on Friday with the women going at 6 p.m. and the men at 8 p.m. They are in Calgary on Saturday. The Kings and Queens are both ranked No. 1 in the CCAA.
• RDC basketball is in Caronport, Sask., on Friday and Saturday to play the Briercrest Clippers. The Kings (8-2) are back up to No. 14 in the CCAA rankings, despite being in first place in the ACAC South Division. The Queens are still looking for their first win of the season, but it could come against the winless Clippers this weekend.
• After a weather-induced bye weekend, the RDC Kings (6-7-0-1) hockey team is back in action, in Camrose tonight to play the Augustana Vikings (9-4-1-2) at 7:30 p.m. and then host Augusta on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Penhold.
• The Queens (2-4-2) hockey team has a home-and-home with the SAIT Trojans (4-3-1), hosting tonight at the Red Deer Arena at 7 p.m. and then in Calgary on Friday at 7 p.m.