FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. — Alberta’s men will be gunning for back-to-back junior curling gold medals, while B.C.’s women will be looking for the province’s first championship since 1987.
Edmonton’s Thomas Scoffin and Corryn Brown of Kamloops, B.C., each clinched byes to the gold-medal games with wins on Thursday night at the Suncor Community Leisure Centre, locking up first place in their respective championship round-robin pools.
Scoffin and Brown were teammates in 2012 on the Canadian mixed team that won a bronze medal at the inaugural Youth Winter Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria.
The men’s final is Saturday, while the women’s final is Sunday.
Also, Nova Scotia’s Stuart Thompson wrapped up a berth in Saturday’s men’s semifinal with a victory on Thursday night.
Scoffin’s team features two members — lead Bryce Bucholz and his twin brother Landon, who plays second — of last year’s Canadian and world junior championship team, so they have experience with what they’ll face here on Saturday.
“Saturday night, it’s really just about controlling your nerves,” Landon Bucholz said after Alberta improved to 9-1 with a 8-3 win over Manitoba’s Matt Dunstone. “You’ve practised all year and all your life for it, so you just have to settle down and throw like you practise. I’m so pumped. It’s really exciting. That was a fun last game to play.”
The Nova Scotians, meanwhile, locked up their playoff berth with a 7-5 win over Ontario’s Aaron Squires. Nova Scotia improved to 8-2 with the victory, while Ontario dropped to 7-3.
Ontario will play a tiebreaker for the third and final playoff spot on Friday against either Manitoba or Saskatchewan’s Brady Scharback.
Saskatchewan improved to 6-3 with a 7-4 win over Quebec on Thursday night, and will play Manitoba to close out the championship round-robin draw on Friday morning, with the tiebreaker berth on the line.
In the other men’s championship-round game, New Brunswick was a 9-4 winner over B.C.
On the women’s side, B.C. clinched its bye to the final in dramatic fashion when Brown made a double takeout to score three in the 10th end for a wild 11-10 win over Ontario’s Jamie Sinclair (7-2).
“I’m so proud of those girls,” said Brown, who finished with a 9-1 record. “We had a couple of unfortunate ends and misses, but we made it through and got the three in the last end.”
B.C. has nearly three full days to prepare for Sunday’s gold-medal game.
“I don’t really want to think about what’s at stake right now,” Brown said. “I just want to keep focused on what’s right now. We haven’t won anything yet and we haven’t lost anything. We just have to keep a level head.”
Manitoba’s Shannon Birchard saw her hopes of a bye to the final vanish with the stunning B.C. win, but the 2012 silver-medallist will play in the women’s semifinal Sunday thanks to her 9-4 win over Saskatchewan. Manitoba finished with the same record as B.C. (9-1), but lost out in the head-to-head tiebreaker.
The third and final playoff berth will be decided on Friday morning as Ontario plays Yukon.
The six teams in each competition that didn’t qualify for the championship round are playing a seeding round robin to determine final rankings for next year’s tournament in Liverpool, N.S.
In the women’s seeding games, it was Newfoundland and Labrador 9 Northern Ontario 6 and Prince Edward Island 7 Alberta 6.
On the men’s side, it was Northern Ontario 9 Nunavut 1 and Yukon 8 Newfoundland 5.