Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
FREDERICTON, N.B. – So far, so good.
The MacEwan Griffins women's team made it through the opening day of the Canadian Colleges Athletics Association national curling championship with a perfect 2-0 record on Friday.
Skip Ashton Simard and her team of third Erin Wells, second Andie Kurjata, and alternating leads Taitan Hagglund and Rebecca Bartz opened with an 11-4 win over New Westminster, B.C.-based Douglas College on Friday morning.
They followed that up with a 10-5 win over Etobicoke, Ont.-based Humber College in the afternoon.
That means MacEwan has a share of the lead after Day 1 of round-robin play, tied atop the standings at 2-0 with UAlberta-Augustana, whom they beat in the final of last month's Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference championship.
"We curled very, very well," said women's team coach Brian Lupul. "I'm very happy with what we've been doing. The ice is curling probably about five-and-a-half feet and our team has caught onto it rather quickly. Our skip is very knowledgeable. She's got a lot of experience. Having curled at the nationals last year helped us a lot. They know what to expect."
Against Douglas, the Griffins jumped out to a hot start, stealing three in the first end due to the team's shot of the day from Simard – a beautiful 10-foot runback behind a guard.
The Griffins followed that up with a two-point steal in the second to go up 5-0 off the hop. From there, they had multi-point ends in both the fourth and sixth to assume a commanding 10-3 lead and the teams shook hands after the eighth end.
"The other team struggled a little bit in the beginning," said Lupul of an ice sheet that wasn't curling much in Thursday's practice, but due to sanding of the rocks overnight was suddenly curling lots in the opening draw. "They weren't used to that kind of ice, so we jumped all over them. They were a little shell-shocked at the start.
"From that point on, they had to gamble a bit and take chances and we took advantage of it."
Against Humber, Simard's rink again took an early lead, scoring two with the hammer in the first before a steal of one had them up 3-0. After scoring two more in the fourth to lead 5-1, they weathered a comeback attempt from the Hawks, who counted three in the fifth, chipping away before landing a decisive three-point blow in the ninth that ended it.
"The other team started bearing down and, in boxing terminology, we were trading punches throughout the whole game," said Lupul. "They got a three on us in one of the ends … but our team never gives up. We plugged away, but we were always ahead.
"The other team did take the odd little chance and in the ninth end we set it up really, really well. Their skip missed their last rock – didn't do what it was supposed to do – and we ended up getting three and they conceded the game."
MacEwan has an early start again on Saturday as they face familiar ACAC foe NAIT (1-1) at 5:30 a.m. MT. They close out the day against Charlottetown, P.E.I.-based Holland College (1-1) at 1:30 p.m. MT.