November 24, 2017

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Calvert rink keeps eyes on title prize

Manitoba junior curling championships roar into Page playoffs

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Braden Calvert watches his team's rock Thursday evening.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Braden Calvert watches his team's rock Thursday evening.

If this truly is the run to a historic provincial junior men’s curling title for Braden Calvert and his clubmates from the Granite, let the record also reflect the sudden jolt that helped restore them to championship form.

Calvert’s crew posted five consecutive round-robin victories to start the Manitoba championship this week but still wasn’t razor-sharp before ramming head-first Wednesday night into a brick wall named Brandon Radford.

Radford was simply sensational, guiding his talented Pembina quartet to a well-deserved win over Calvert’s top-seeded team of third Colton Lott, second Kyle Doering and lead Rob Gordon.

Calvert’s foursome — now just one victory away from a Manitoba title after qualifying for today’s afternoon finale — maintains the round-robin defeat was a timely reality check for a squad intent on capturing a championship and nothing less.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/1/2017 (322 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If this truly is the run to a historic provincial junior men’s curling title for Braden Calvert and his clubmates from the Granite, let the record also reflect the sudden jolt that helped restore them to championship form.

Calvert’s crew posted five consecutive round-robin victories to start the Manitoba championship this week but still wasn’t razor-sharp before ramming head-first Wednesday night into a brick wall named Brandon Radford.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Skip Mackenzie Zacharias watches her rock during the Provincial Jr. curling event at St. Vital Curling Club Thursday.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Skip Mackenzie Zacharias watches her rock during the Provincial Jr. curling event at St. Vital Curling Club Thursday.

Radford was simply sensational, guiding his talented Pembina quartet to a well-deserved win over Calvert’s top-seeded team of third Colton Lott, second Kyle Doering and lead Rob Gordon.

Calvert’s foursome — now just one victory away from a Manitoba title after qualifying for today’s afternoon finale — maintains the round-robin defeat was a timely reality check for a squad intent on capturing a championship and nothing less.

"I think it definitely woke us up," he said Thursday.

"Every team that we’ve played so far has come out firing against us, and we ran into a really hot skip (Radford) that was making everything. We just weren’t quite as sharp, so we wanted to come out (Thursday) and really come out firing, and that’s what we did."

Calvert rebounded with a solid effort to down Jordan Smith of Pembina Thursday to finish 6-1 and clinch first place in the eight-team Black division, snagging a spot in the 1 vs. 1 game of the Page playoffs against J.T. Ryan of Assiniboine Memorial.

In that crucial contest, offering a direct route to today’s final, Calvert knocked off the previously unbeaten Ryan with relative ease, posting an 8-2 win in eight ends Thursday night at St. Vital.

The final is scheduled for 1 p.m. today at St. Vital.

Calvert’s opponent won’t be determined until after the morning semifinal featuring Ryan and Hayden Forrester of Fort Rouge, at 9 a.m.

Forrester registered a 7-5 win in the 2 vs. 2 game, stealing a pair in the 10th end when Smith was heavy on last-rock draw.

In junior women’s play, Kristy Watling of East St. Paul, who posted a 7-0 record in the round robin in the Red division, downed Mackenzie Zacharias of Altona 9-4 in the 1 vs. 1 contest late Thursday.

Watling is in the final at 1 p.m. against either Laura Burtnyk of Assiniboine Memorial or Zacharias.

Burtnyk defeated Paige Watkins of Deer Lodge 8-7 in the 2 vs. 2 game and will meet Zacharias in the 9 a.m. semifinal

Calvert is part of the reigning provincial and national junior men’s championship team — even though he didn’t even play for the squad in 2016.

Matt Dunstone threw the final brick, guiding Doering, Lott and Gordon last season to the Manitoba title and a Canadian championship in Stratford, Ont.

Calvert had won the Manitoba and Canadian crowns in 2014 and 2015, including a world title in 2015 in Estonia, with an entirely different lineup.

The winning ways of the team go back to 2012 when Doering skipped his own team to the provincial title with Lott at third, and then Lott partnered with Dunstone in 2013 to win Manitoba and Canadian crowns.

At least one curler on the Calvert squad has won a Manitoba junior title in five consecutive years and at least one has celebrated a Canadian championship in the last four.

They’re hoping to complete their junior careers by adding to that unique and remarkable streak.

"I think deep down we want to make a little bit of history for ourselves. You guys maybe think it’s more of a foregone conclusion this event, but you just have to remember how many good teams are in it, and any team can get hot and beat any team on any given day," said Calvert.

"So, we’re just trying to stay in the moment. It would obviously be unreal, nothing better aging out as a provincial champion."

Watling’s team dominated from the start, scoring a quick deuce in the first end and adding three more in the fifth to lead Zacharias 5-1 at the halfway point.

"It feels unreal to come out here and play four for four as a team. The girls are on fire. They make shots look easy out there," Watling said.

"To come out here and play just unreal in the 1 vs. 1 is huge for us. It’s a huge confidence boost going into the finals (today).

Somehow, Watling was going to have to shut down her thoughts and emotions and get some much-needed rest Thursday night.

"We’re going to have to treat it like another round-robin game. We didn’t treat (the 1 vs. 1) like the big game that it really was," she said.

"We just go with that same mindset, keep playing like we are and, hopefully, it will take care of itself."

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Read more by Jason Bell.

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