Team Manitoba with a taste of the Maritimes
Leap of faith by Jones rink’s Lenentine and Burgess continues to payoff
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Lauren Lenentine couldn’t wait to pick up the phone this past off-season to tell her family back home in Charlottetown, P.E.I., that Jennifer Jones, someone she grew up watching and idolizing, was now her teammate.
“The one call I remember the most vividly was with my grandmother. I don’t think she believed me at first,” Lenentine, 22, told the Free Press on Monday.
“But my family was all so excited. I think it took a while for them to truly process it and I don’t think it fully hit then until we hit the ice this year.”
It’s definitely sunk in now as Jones and her new rink of twentysomethings — third Karlee Burgess, second Mackenzie Zacharias, and co-leads Emily Zacharias and Lenentine — captured the Manitoba women’s provincial curling title on Sunday in East St. Paul with an 8-5 victory over Abby Ackland.
It’s the first Manitoba championship for the group of up-and-comers with Jones leading the charge, but it will be their third straight trip to the Canadian Scotties. Mackenzie skipped them to their women’s nationals in 2021 as Wild Card no. 2. The following year, they got to represent Manitoba after beating Kristy Watling for the provincial crown. They went 5-3 in 2022 and missed the playoffs, but this year, with more experience and the addition of a legend, the expectations are higher.
“I just feel like I have a different perspective for the game now. I feel like I see it in a different way, and I’ve learned so much about my role of sweeping,” said Lenentine.
“Just being able to learn those skills from Jen has been so important. It’s transformed our careers more than you could ever imagine.”
Their journey started in 2019 when Burgess, who hails from Truro, N.S., and Lenentine agreed to take the plunge and leave the Maritimes to move to Winnipeg to team up with the Zacharias sisters. The move paid off tremendously as the group won the 2020 World Junior Curling championship.
“I always thought they were a little bit crazy moving from Nova Scotia and P.E.I. to come here. I’m kinda jealous that they grew up out East. But no, they saw a great opportunity here,” said Mackenzie.
“They definitely did take a little leap of faith, especially Lauren. She didn’t have any connections in Manitoba (Burgess is dating Winnipeg curler Jacques Gauthier) and she only met Emily and I once and we ended up living together for three years after that. Thankfully, we all got along really well and things, honestly, worked themselves out. It’s crazy that it even happened. I don’t know of any other situation that’s quite the same.”
Adding Jones to the mix has meant one player, usually Lenentine or Emily, have to sit out each game. Lenentine played the team’s final playoff round game, a 9-5 win over Kaitlyn Lawes, and Emily took over for the championship match against Ackland.
“That’s not an easy thing to ask somebody to do. They’ve both been so great and they’re both playing fantastic and have been all year. But yeah, it does take a lot to buy into the whole idea of a couple years of learning is going to help us more in the future as a team and as a foursome,” said Mackenzie.
“So, for them to buy into that, they’re fantastic teammates when they’re playing and sitting, too, so we’re just so thankful for the both of them.”
Last year’s men’s Team Manitoba is headed to the Brier
Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen, who’s in his first season playing out of province, won the Ontario Tankard on Sunday.
When McEwen arrives in London, Ont., for the 2023 Brier (March 3-12), his lead from the last quadrennial will also be there as Colin Hodgson, now playing for Tanner Horgan, won Northern Ontario’s provincial playdown on the weekend.
The rest of their old rink, Reid Carruthers and Derek Samagalski, will play for the Manitoba championship next week in Neepawa (Feb. 7-12). If Carruthers and Samagalski fail to earn the right to wear the buffalo jacket, they can likely count on a wild-card spot as they’re fifth in the Canadian Team Ranking System.
“It would be a dream to share a Brier with everybody. We left on great terms. We knew we needed to do something different. I wasn’t living in Manitoba anymore and we ultimately didn’t get that big win we were all hoping for,” Hodgson said.
“So, we kinda revisited what we were all doing. But I have been in communication with the guys, like Reid and Derek were in a final in Phoenix (Ed Werenich Golden Wrench Classic) this last weekend, so we’re always watching each other’s scores and reaching out when other guys are doing well. So, it’d be amazing if we were all able to be there again. What a cherry on top it would be to go to the Brier with all your pals.”
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of...