The north side of the St. Lawrence River was the site of Nova Scotia’s lone triumph in Canadian junior men’s curling.
Twenty-five years ago in Trois-Rivieres, Que., Shawn Adams captured the 1993 national men’s title, the last time the Canadian junior curling championships were held in that region of Quebec.
This Saturday, the tournament returns to the area, 30 minutes up the road in Shawinigan. And Matthew Manuel hopes there’s some Bluenose magic in the region again.
The Mayflower skip and his team of third Alec Cameron, second Nick Zachernuk and lead Adam Cocks will make their fourth appearance at the event.
“I’m very excited to be going back for a fourth time at nationals,” Manuel said in a recent interview. “I feel like we have a team that is ready for the challenge and win a lot of games up there. We’ve been practising hard all year with some great results. I think
this has been our most successful to date. It’s going to be a competitive week with a lot of teams that’ll be in the hunt come the second weekend, so it should be really exciting.”
Fourteen men’s and 14 women’s teams will compete for the Canadian junior titles.
Kaitlyn Jones, who skipped Saskatchewan to a 5-5 finish at last year’s juniors in Victoria, will lead a Nova Scotia contingent that features third Kristin Clarke and second Karlee Burgess — who teamed with Mary Fay to win gold at the 2016 Canadian and world juniors — and lead Lindsey Burgess.
Nova Scotia has been victorious in the junior women’s event on four occasions — Fay two years ago, Jill Mouzar (2004), Meredith Doyle (1997) and Kay Smith (1980).
The women’s field includes seven skips making their Canadian juniors debut, including Sara England, who takes over from Jones as Saskatchewan skip. England is the daughter of the late curling legend, Sandra Schmirler.
The men’s lineup is loaded with, among others, defending champion Tyler Tardi of B.C., Ontario’s 2017 silver medallist Matthew Hall and Northern Ontario’s Tanner Horgan, making his fifth consecutive appearance, having won silver in 2016 and bronze last year.
“It’s a completely different animal than your average tournament,” Manuel said of nationals.
“Having that experience in your back pocket can play a big role when you’re making that last shot to win a game. We have four guys on the team who have all of that
experience. So we’ll be that much more ready for those situations.”
Although they haven’t had much success at nationals — the Manuel rink finished 3-4 at last year’s event — the team does have a winning pedigree.
They have won four consecutive Nova Scotia under-21 men’s crowns to go with three provincial under-18 titles. Perhaps that success
will translate at the national level.
“Winning provincials is pretty special,” said Manuel, who turned 20 in October and has one more season of junior eligibility. “We had some really great teams that gave us a run for our money at times, which made it much more special to be able to pull out the victory.
“There have been great success stories from Nova Scotian curlers in the past. And as a whole, the rest of the country has noticed when they face Nova Scotia. Maybe it’ll be our turn.”