Both Griffins curling rinks punch their tickets to ACAC Championship next month

Hilary Charlie throws a rock while teammates Erin Wells, left and Andie Kurjata stand at the ready to sweep during action at the ACAC Winter Regional at Avonair Curling Club on Saturday (Len Joudrey photo).
Hilary Charlie throws a rock while teammates Erin Wells, left and Andie Kurjata stand at the ready to sweep during action at the ACAC Winter Regional at Avonair Curling Club on Saturday (Len Joudrey photo).

MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – They're off to the championship.

Both Griffins entries in the Alberta Colleges Athletics Conference curling circuit have qualified for the conference finale after successful weekends at the Winter Regional, hosted by Concordia University at the Avonair Curling Club over the weekend.

The Griffins women punched their ticket after going 3-3 in games from Friday to Sunday and finishing with a combined 7-5 record (with their 4-2 Fall Regional mark factored in) to grab the fourth and final spot in the ACAC Championships in Camrose, Feb. 16-18.

And the MacEwan mixed rink finished 3-2 at the Winter Regional, good for second overall with a 7-3 combined record.

While the mixed squad will be returning to the ACAC Championship a year after winning a bronze medal, the Griffins women missed qualifying last season after claiming the banner in 2016.

"Huge step," said MacEwan curling coach Tom Kitagawa. "I'm very pleased the ladies put it together.

"We lost to Concordia on last rock and we lost to NAIT this afternoon on last rock. We could have won either of those games."

Concordia is the defending ACAC women's champions and are looking solid in a bid for another as they've gone 10-2 through the regional events. NAIT, meanwhile, went 9-3 – including a 5-1 clip over the weekend – so for the Griffins to be within one shot of those two teams bodes well for their chances in three weeks.

Red Deer College will be the fourth women's team advancing after finishing 8-4.

At the Winter Regional, the Griffins women's rink of Ashton Simard, Erin Wells, Andie Kurjata, Sara Fraser and Hilary Charlie opened with a 5-4 loss to Concordia on Friday before beating UAlberta-Augustana 6-4. On Saturday, they played what Kitagawa called their worst match of the weekend in a 7-2 loss to RDC, but rebounded to whip Olds 9-2. They closed out the Regional with a 6-3 win over Lakeland and a 6-4 loss to NAIT on Sunday.

"Against Concordia we had moments where I thought 'wow,'" said the coach. "To me it's like any game – ebbs and flows. Unfortunately, we had too many ebbs and we needed more flow, but it is what it is.

"We're not far from winning. I guess it's being able to put it together the whole game, the whole eight ends. That, in my estimation, would have made the difference from winning or losing some of those games."

The MacEwan mixed rink of Jordan Semen, Rebecca Bartz, Aidan Munro and Andrea Bury opened up strong with an 8-2 win over RDC and a 5-3 win over Olds on Friday. They fell 8-6 to Lakeland before salvaging Saturday play with a 6-5 win over Portage. On Sunday, they finished off the bonspiel with a 5-2 loss to NAIT.

"I thought they curled very well," said Kitagawa. "I thought they performed very well. Again, there were moments when I thought 'wow, they're brilliant' and then others when I thought 'who are these guys?' It's kind of the ebbs and flow thing."

NAIT finished first in the mixed division with an 8-2 record, while Portage (6-4) and RDC (5-5) will also join MacEwan at the ACAC Championship.

MacEwan did not field a men's team this season.

Both Griffins teams will have a good shot in Camrose. Each of the four qualifiers in each division will initially square off in a round robin. From there, they'll play a modified double knockout page playoff system where the 1-2 seeds meet for the right to go to the gold medal game and 3-4 for the right to go to the semifinal. However, the loser of that will still play for the bronze against the semifinal loser as the system is designed to make a team win the bronze.

"I'm going to say (our chances are) quite good," said Kitagawa. "We played NAIT and Concordia down to the last rock. So, if you make your last two rocks in the last end you win. Whoever doesn't make that last shot is going to lose."