There is no place to hide as the defending champion in provincial high school curling.
“Everybody seems to know,” said skip Nic Oake of the undefeated St. Albert Skyhawks in the metro Edmonton league. “They were all mentioning it (in Wednesday’s playdowns), ‘Oh, those are the champs.’ It’s kind of weird.”
The pressure to repeat hasn’t fazed the Oake rink of David Howes, Chase Lozinsky and Owen Pacholok.
“So far it seems about the same as last year,” Oake said.
The Skyhawks are ranked first in the 13-team double elimination draw at the Ottewell after going 5-0 in the Wednesday seeding draw league at Jasper Place and the first game was Wednesday’s 11-0 shutout of the No. 9 Mother Margaret Mary Storm.
The next game is Tuesday versus the No. 4 Harry Ainlay Titans at 3:45 p.m.
The winner of the Feb. 27 final advances to the Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association men’s, women’s and mixed championships, March 7 to 9 at St. Paul.
“It would be cool to defend the championship,” said Oake, a Grade 12 student along with Howes while Lozinsky and Pacholok are in Grade 11.
The provincial gold medal hasn’t lost its glitter for the Skyhawks after the 5-4 triumph against the Lethbridge Collegiate Institute Rams in the March 3 final at St. Albert Curling Club for an overall 5-1 record in the 10-team draw.
“It was huge. It was exciting, for sure. Lots of people came down to watch. That was probably the most people we’ve had at one game. Definitely memorable,” Oake said.
In the U18 division in the Alberta Junior Curling Tour with Lozinsky, 16, at third, second Carter Parenteau, a 14-year-old Grade 9 École Secondaire Sainte Marguerite d’Youville student in the lineup in place of Howes, and Pacholok, 16, at lead, Oake won the Camrose bonspiel and was a second-place finisher twice. The team also placed third at a U21 bonspiel.
“We’ve been doing pretty good. We’re in third place in the province in points,” Oake said of the U18 squad that is also kicking butt and taking names in the Tuesday night men’s league in St. Albert. “With the way we’ve been playing this year, it gives you a little more confidence.”
Oake, 17, is also more comfortable calling the shots.
“My strategy has got a little bit better, a little more calm. It’s not so much try and put everything in play. It’s like cleaner for sure.”
The Curling Alberta U18 Optimist playdowns started Thursday for Oake on his favourite playing surface.
“It’s exciting. We’ve got home field advantage,” said Oake, one of several ice crew employees assisting St. Albert head ice technician Audra Lindsey. “It’s nice to go into the game having a good idea of what the ice is going to be like. It gives you a bit of an advantage.
“The ice here is always great,” Oake added. “ It was extra fast (Thursday) afternoon. It felt faster than usual.”
The opening draw in the 14-team male division was 7-2 in seven ends against Oliver Burton of the Saville Centre as Oake stole five points in the opening three ends and a deuce with hammer in four made it 7-1.
The evening draw was the 7-6 loss to Zach Davies of the Saville Centre as Oake surrendered three in four to trail 5-1. A four-ender by Oake with hammer in seven tied it at six and Davies counted the winner in eight.
Friday in the B event, Oake played Gryffen Algot of Sherwood Park but the score was unavailable at press time.
Three teams qualify for the juvenile provincials, March 14 to 17 at Medicine Hat. The A final was Friday night, the B final is tonight at 7:30 p.m. and the C final is 2 p.m. Sunday.
Nationals are April 2 to 7 at Glen Allan Recreation Complex in Sherwood Park.
“Obviously we want to get a spot at provincials,” Oake said.
U18 femalesThe six-team U18 female playdowns started Friday afternoon in St. Albert and Sunday’s provincial qualifiers are 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.
In the opening draw, the St. Albert rink of skip Anna Smith, third Brennin Turner, second Presley Cuthbertson and lead Rachael Hansen faced Joely Zimmer of Ellerslie while skip Julia Bakos of St. Albert and her Crestwood team of third Quinn Prodaniuk, second Kim Bonneau and lead Julianna MacKenzie was in action against Claire Booth of Red Deer. Scores were unavailable at press time.
Bakos is the Team Alberta skip for the Canada Winter Games, Feb. 15 to March 3 in Red Deer, curling with Prodaniuk, second Alyssa Nedohin and MacKenzie.
Visit www.albertacurling.ab.ca for draw times and results for the U18 female and male playdowns.