Erik Colwell (kneeling) calls the shot during Tuesday night men’s curling in preparation for the coming junior provincials in Vernon. (John K. White/Morning Star)

Vernon’s Colwell sets focus on home provincials

The provincials are the biggest stage in the game for B.C. curlers.

The provincials are the biggest stage in the game for B.C. curlers and usually bring the most pressure, but for the Vernon junior men’s reps, the recent playdowns were a step above.

“Qualifying is always a stressful time. I always find playdowns way more stressful than provincials because just the thought of not being at provincials, especially when we knew our hometown was hosting it this year, we were kind of nervous,” skip Erik Colwell said Tuesday night before playing in a men’s league game at the Vernon Curling Club. “If we don’t capitalize this year we’re kind of letting down our home club.”

The young skip has been around long enough to have seen a dramatic improvement in the level of play.

“When we qualified it was a big step for us because it is tough to qualify at playdowns. Competition in curling has gone up so much since my first juniors. Every year it just gets stronger and stronger,” Colwell said.

“The quality of junior curling has gone way up because you see junior teams nowadays going into men’s and women’s and competing with them. You have Bruce Mowat who won the world juniors two years ago and now he’s like one of the top five teams in the world and he’s 22 years old. The training, and the coaching, and the practice is way more dedicated from the players and it can really show.”

Like most athletes competing at the top levels of sport, maintaining the focus on execution versus the potential result is the key to dealing with nerves.

“We’re just trying to think about each shot individually and not overthink it and play our game. You never want to be thinking about ‘if we make this we get three,’ it’s just another draw, it’s just another hit. You just think of it as you’re just throwing because we’ve all thrown the shot before,” Colwell said.

RELATED: BC Junior Curling Championships field complete

RELATED: Home, sweet home for Vernon provincial curling reps

Competitive familiarity and respect have combined to inform Team Colwell of certain strategies heading into provincials play.

“We definitely have a strategy coming into provincials. We’ve played all of these teams before, we know how they play, and we practice specific areas [based on] what happened at playdowns, where we struggled, where our strengths are, and really play our best coming into provincials and have a good plan going in against each team,” the skip said.

Colwell’s squad knows they’ll be in tough against two rinks in particular.

“Tyler Tardi. I’ve been playing him since I was 12. He’s one of the best players in the world at the junior level, so we’re always looking at him, not just as a role model but as a big competitor because we know that he always performs on the biggest stage,” Colwell said. “Team Sato, they’re really young, they’re really good, they were last year’s U18 provincial champs, so we always look at them as stiff competition. We’re just going to have to take it one game at a time.”

A common thread among all competitive curlers is the lure of one day representing Canada at the Winter Olympics. Many point to this ultimate carrot as the catalyst for the heightened focus, intensity and commitment to the game, especially at the junior level.

“Olympics are a big thing for curlers, especially here in Canada where there’s such stiff competition. To be representing your country in the Olympics, it’s a big step and it’s tough to get there, so I think players are always looking for that,” Colwell said.

The 2019 junior men’s and women’s provincials go in Vernon from Dec. 27 to Jan 1.

The complete list of teams that have qualified for the BC Junior Men’s Curling Championship is as follows:

– Team Tardi (BC Junior Curling Tour)

– Team Carpenter (BC Junior Curling Tour)

– Team Sato (Coastal playdown)

– Team Umbach (Coastal playdown)

– Team Colwell (Thompson Okanagan playdown)

– Team Marshall (open playdown)

– Team Yamada (open playdown)

– Team Silversides (open playdown)

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Logan Miron watches his rock during Tueday men’s league play. (John K. White/Morning Star)

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