While the roar of the upstairs crowd could be heard from the ice after Vernon skip Erik Colwell’s double and sit for four in the seventh end against Nicholas Umbach, the game-turning end in their 9-5 win actually came together gradually.
It was the final round-robin game of the BC provincial junior curling championships Sunday afternoon for both teams, with the winner punching their ticket to the playoffs and the loser going home.
Before the seventh end, it was very much a blow-for-blow contest with neither team exerting dominance. That changed with a run-back from Colwell and a heavy draw attempt from Umbach setting up the hit for four.
“His draw came down heavy at the back of the four foot and he lined them up right beside each other so I had to hit it right in the middle, and if I hit it in the middle it was for four,” Colwell said after accepting congrats from well-wishers upstairs.
“They definitely have a lot of energy and you could definitely tell we’re the home team. You come off of the ice and you get a lot of support and congratulations so it’s pretty awesome.”
Colwell said the mechanics of the shot were easy, the trick was keeping the enormity of the potential result at bay in his mind before setting up for his pre-shot routine.
“It wasn’t a super difficult shot, I just had to throw it. But definitely, under that pressure, you just have to trust it. When that shot can change the game so much, you’ve just got to trust it and throw it properly and let the sweepers make it for you,” Colwell said.
With an incredibly competitive field and many last-shot games in the round-robin, Colwell said his team of third Logan Miron, second Ben Morin and lead Tyler Powell, is thrilled to make the playoffs.
“We’re just excited to be playing. It’s the semi-finals, it’s playoffs. A lot of people are going to be watching online and in person, so it’s just exciting to be here because I haven’t been to playoffs in juniors in a long time and it feels good to be back,” he said. “It’s obviously more pressure for playoffs, but we’ve handled it pretty well so far and we played really well today.”
The other game of import at 2 p.m. was Tyler Tardi and Hayato Sato facing off for first place and a bye through to Tuesday’s final. Tardi came out firing from the start and eventually cruised to a 7-4 win. The reigning world junior champ has to be considered the favourite going into the final, but Sato has had a superb week and Colwell has been clutch when called upon.
Sato finished second and gets last rock by virtue of their win over Colwell in the round-robin. The semi-final goes Monday at 3 p.m.
The final round-robin standings on the men’s side:
On the women’s side, Vernon’s Megan McGillivray ran up against a red-hot Sarah Daniels from Delta in their showdown for first place and it was Daniels romping to an 8-2 win.
Daniels popped a three in the second end and really never looked back.
Once McGillivray’s team got over the shock of losing the chance for a bye to Tuesday’s final, they were able to bring perspective to a second-place round-robin finish and a chance to win it all by downing defending champion Taylor Resse-Hansen in the semi and Daniels in the final.
“Going into it our goal was just to make playoffs and so we’ve made that, so now we get to make a new goal,” McGillivray said. “I’m pretty excited.”
Obviously, a winner-take-all scenario and last rock advantage in the finals are enticing prospects, but McGillivray reframed the challenge by stating that the one-day wait can be a detriment mentally.
“I don’t think there’s any real disadvantage to having to play tomorrow instead of waiting a day,” McGillivray said. “We’re still in it, so it’s good.”
It’s an example of an elite athlete’s ability to use mental toughness, imaging, reframing and positive self-talk to advantage as an event evolves. It likely doesn’t hurt that their coach is seven-time Brier competitor Jim Cotter, an eager student of sports psychology.
“We were wanting to do it step by step and halfway through the week, we were seeing that maybe it was starting to become real,” McGillivray said.
To that end, McGillivray and her team of third Jaelyn Cotter, second Katelyn McGillivray and lead Cassidy Schwaerzle, said their mission is to keep their steady approach going and focus on their own game.
“I don’t think we change anything, just keep playing our best. Both teams are going to be coming out hard because it’s the semi-finals but I think we just play our game and not worry about what we can’t control, and stay within our team, that’s the biggest thing I think.”
The women’s semi goes Monday at 10 a.m. and the winner faces Daniels on Tuesday at 10 a.m.
The final round-robin standings:
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