ON the first day they could have rested from a solid week of championship curling, Braden Calvert and his teammates just wanted to throw more rocks.
Instead, with a spot in the M&M Meat Shops Canadian Junior Curling Championships final all locked up, the Deer Lodge skipper and his crew settled for a spot of practice.
They've had a dream run so far, going 9-1 through the opening rounds to lock up first place and its cherished final berth. But with one last test on Sunday yet ahead, Calvert, third Kyle Kurz, second Lucas Van Den Bosch and lead Brendan Wilson want to be prepared.
"They wanted to throw rocks all day today," said coach Tom Clasper from Liverpool, N.S. "One of the things that's really impressed me is how they're never happy with their game, even if they've won. Some kids go 'oh, we won the game, I'm great.' They're going, 'When can we practise?' "
That is the diligence that carried Calvert this far, starting when they launched an upset win over defending Canadian champion Matt Dunstone at the provincial final in Portage la Prairie.
They rolled into Nova Scotia riding that momentum and into this remarkable streak: They lost only one game in the last week, an 8-6 Thursday match against British Columbia's Cameron de Jong.
"I think we just gained a lot of confidence, and we realized we can compete with these teams," said Calvert, 18, a first-year University of Manitoba agriculture student. "We just took it one game at a time, and tried to keep the momentum going. Our goal was basically to play well."
But winning, even when an almost unblemished record, doesn't always come easy.
There was one game, a match last Saturday against Quebec's Adam Freilich, where the Manitobans felt a little on the run.
Yes, they won that one 6-3, but it was a squeaker: At one point Calvert was one point up and holding the hammer, and facing four Quebec rocks with his final shot of the end. It was a tough tap to get out of trouble, but he made it. "That was a good rebound shot," Calvert said. "It set us up well not just for the game, but for the week."
Now, Calvert and crew have a bit of a break. While they wait for their final opponent to be decided -- the men's semifinals run today, between Alberta's Cartner Lautner and New Brunswick's Rene Comeau -- they've had a chance to rest, and practise, and see the sights. The Winnipeg winter followed them to Liverpool, Calvert quipped, as the weather turned chilly over the week: still, they've loved to see the ocean.
Sometimes, a two-day break can baffle momentum. On the other hand, it helps to keep things loose. They've been using downtime to shoot some pool and crack jokes about the games behind. Sometimes, Calvert whips out his Vic Rauter impersonation, which always gets a laugh.
That part -- keeping things light -- is also advice taken from the previous champ, Dunstone, who has been in touch with Calvert's rink this week.
Going 9-1 through the first 10 games helped with the confidence, but the way Clasper sees it, it's the team's chemistry off the sheet that's put them where they are this week. "There's some kind of jell going on, as athletes and as people," said Clasper, who signed on to coach them just three weeks ago.
The 2 p.m. final will be aired by TSN.