Robichaud on a Roll
When looking through the list of skips at the Canadian Mixed Curling Championship, Sylvie Robichaud’s name stands out. The New Brunswick skip is the only female skip in the draw and has her team in a great position to make the playoffs. The team out of Curl Moncton sits at 5-1 through nine draws and is in the midst of the playoff race with five games to play.
It will not be an easy task, however, as games against some of the teams at the top of the standings remain. “Our team has been playing better and better every game so I think playing the tougher teams at the end is probably best,” Robichaud said. “We’ve got some tough teams coming ahead, but we’ve played other teams from other provinces before and we know a little bit about what to expect this time around.”
Being the only female skip isn’t an issue for Robichaud and she pointed out that she’s “treated the same way” as any other skip in the tournament.
For the most part, mixed lineups (even at the club level) feature women at lead and third with men playing second and skip. Although there are no rules governing who skips, positions have to alternate between men and women, which means that the decision as to who throws last also determines who plays second.
“A lot of the guys can throw it hard so when you have that weapon at second stone, it’s a good one to have,” said PEI third Kathy O’Rourke, an accomplished skip in her own right, including a silver medal at the 2010 Scotties Tournament of Hearts. “I think once you get down to third and skip, you’re usually playing a lot of those touch shots and so it doesn’t seem like it matters quite as much, but at the end of the day that weapon, if you have it at skip, it’s a great one to have.”
Adding another unique dimension to the team is that younger brother Marcel plays third. Sylvie points out that this can lead to some occasion tension, “but [we’re] pretty close [and] we get along pretty well so it’s not a big deal for us.”
Marcel agreed with that assessment, saying “we’ve curled 5 or 6 seasons together now so we know how to curl together.” As to whether any sibling rivalry boils up during the games, Marcel is quick to dismiss the notion: “when we first made up the team we just looked at who would be best at what position and to us it just made sense to do it this way.”
The unique alignment also means that the younger Robichaud is the only male third in the tournament. He says that that distinction makes no difference as “all you try to do is play your stones…and focus on how to help your team out.”
With big games left to close out the round robin, the team feels confident about its chances, particularly as they get increasingly comfortable with the ice. “The first day was a little trickier, it was a little straighter,” said Sylvie, “but it seems to be curling more now and we have [a pretty good feel for] draw weight.”
That feel was on full display on Tuesday night as they stole 6 against Quebec in the first end on route to a 9-4 win.
The team out of the Mayflower Curling Club in Halifax had a perfect Tuesday to even its record at 3-3, beating British Columbia in the morning before stealing a point in the extra end against Ontario to close out the afternoon draw. With only three teams making the playoffs in the 12-team field, however, it’s still a long road to the weekend.
“Generally…you can’t have more than 3 [losses], it’s possible you could have 4,” said skip Rob Harris. “You need to win early in the week to [put] yourself in position the last day.”
Down 6-4 heading to the 10th, Nova Scotia was staring at a fourth loss, but was able to come back for the victory. “They’re obviously a very good team,” Harris said of Ontario, “our team came out at the start of the week a little spotty, we haven’t played a lot together and we’re obviously getting some momentum.”
With two straight byes, the team has plenty of time to prepare for the home stretch. Lead Katarina Hakansson said they would use the time to get some “needed rest and maybe get some food.”
Harris is optimistic about the team’s chances heading towards the weekend: “if we could ever claw our way into the playoffs we’re going to have the experience,” he said of his team, which features two-time national mixed champion Mary Mattatall at third. He’s not looking ahead of anybody though, “they’re all good teams. You can’t hide here.”
Day 4 Notes: Ontario second Greg Balsdon missed the team’s afternoon loss to Nova Scotia with a hip injury. He returned to play in the team’s evening loss against Alberta…The Northwest Territories (0-6) remains the only team searching for its first win…Alberta is in first place with a 6-1 record, followed by Saskatchewan and New Brunswick at 5-1. Full standings can be found here.