At 11:45 Monday morning at the Canadian Mixed Curling Championship, as people throughout the nation’s capital were getting ready for lunch, Northwest Territories skip Stephen Moss settled into the hack at the Rideau Curling Club. Searching for their first win, the team from the Yellowknife Curling Club was down 5-2 to Newfoundland and Labrador in the 7th end with Moss facing 2 and needing to draw the four-foot.
When the stone stopped on the button, the Northwest Territories was still down 2 but was re-energized, stealing single points in eighth and ninth ends to tie the game coming home. “We got the momentum there in seven and it seemed like we were setting up the ends really well,” said lead Debbie Moss.
The comeback would not be complete, however, as Newfoundland and Labrador (1-3) survived a nervous tenth end to win 6-5. With a Northwest Territories (0-4) stone just touching the four-foot, Newfoundland skip Gary Oke’s final hit curled just enough to score a single point.
Even with the strong second half, the Northwest Territories team curled just 67% in the game and Stephen admitted that they were still figuring out the ice. “We’re just being a little inconsistent,” he said, “we’re not there yet but we’re coming along.”
Over 3,000 kilometres from home, Stephen, along with third Ashley Green, second Ross Begg, and lead Debbie, not only had to come a far distance to get to Ottawa, but also had to take the long road to get into the main draw. During the pre-tournament qualifying, the final spot in the event came down to a sudden-death game between Northwest Territories and Yukon, skipped Bob Smallwood out of the Whitehorse Curling Club.
That the game was played between the neighbouring territories was somewhat symbolic, as curling in the North frequently pits the same teams against each other. “It’s a few teams playing each other over and over and you get used to the other team,” said Stephen, “it doesn’t allow you to hone all the aspects of your game because you play each other the same way every time.”
This does not mean that there is a lack of curling in the North, however, as Stephen referred to the curling community as “robust.” Debbie agreed, saying that “we’re in a cycle now where we have a lot of seniors because that’s just the demographics right now and we’re just freshly starting with some new juniors…curling in the North is growing.”
Despite that growth, no team representing the Territories has ever won a national championship. That is partly because it is difficult for teams to play in big bonspiels or tour events. “There’s not a lot of travel from the Northern teams because it’s so expensive” said the skip.
With Nunavut and Yukon failing to qualify for the main draw, the North’s hopes of ending that drought now fall on the foursome from Yellowknife. But, just as they showed on Monday morning, that doesn’t mean the squad is conceding anything because, as Stephen points out, “we’ve been close a few times.”
Day 3 Notes: Monday morning’s game between Newfoundland and Labrador and Northwest Territories featured the two teams that had to win their spot in the pre-tournament qualifier…Quebec’s loss to Ontario in Monday afternoon’s draw ensured that no team would go through the round-robin undefeated…Through 7 draws there is a logjam at the top of the standings as six teams only have one loss (Alberta, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick, Northern Ontario).