Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Although there was a target on their backs, NAIT's men's squad and MacEwan's women's rink held onto first-place positions by completing the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference Winter Regional with perfect 6-0 records at the Avonair Curling Club on Sunday.
Trygge Jensen's NAIT Ooks foursome – which also included third Jonah Tobinski, second Bret Winfield, lead John Ritchie and alternate JJ Crowder – entered the event on top the standings after also going 6-0 in the ACAC Fall Regional. They finished a perfect 12-0.
"I know everybody's trying to beat us and knock us down," said coach Jules Owchar. "Olds came close. We had to draw the four foot to win."
He credited his veteran rink to their success as they rolled to wins over Olds (6-5), Concordia (11-2), Lakeland (9-3), MacEwan (7-2), Red Deer College (9-6) and UAlberta-Augustana (8-1).
"First of all, they were complete from last year, so that makes a pretty big difference," said Owchar.
"They've got it. They know what it takes to win and they work hard. I don't even have to be there and I know they're going to do everything they're supposed to. So that makes a big difference."
Concordia (9-3), RDC (7-5) and Lakeland (5-7) claimed the other men's berths for the ACAC Championship in Olds Feb. 22-24. UAA, MacEwan and Olds missed the playoffs at 3-9.
MacEwan's women's rink, comprised of skip Ashton Simard, third Erin Wells, second Andie Kurjata and alternating leads Taitan Hagglund and Rebecca Bartz, entered the weekend in first in the standings at 5-1. They finished 11-1 after rattling off six wins at their home facility.
"They never gave up," said coach Brian Lupul. "They very consistently played well.
"In this game, you can miss shots. Everybody misses shots. It never bothered them.
"It seemed like because we were No. 1 from the last round, teams got up a little more for us, which is OK. We had some excellent competition, there's some good teams here.
"The women, I'm quite proud of them."
MacEwan beat Concordia (6-4), Lakeland (9-2), NAIT (5-3), Olds (6-4), RDC (6-4) and UAA (5-4) to wrap up first place.
"Anybody can win," said Lupul of the ACAC Championship. "This is our home rink, so we're a little more familiar with it. It will be a bigger test going to Olds. I am quite confident that the women (will have success). Over the last three years they've improved vastly. They're all quality. We don't have a weak player."
NAIT (8-4), RDC (7-5) and UAlberta-Augustana – which beat fellow 5-7 team Olds College in a Sunday afternoon tiebreaker – will join the Griffins at the ACAC Championship. Concordia (4-8) and Lakeland (2-10) were also eliminated.
UAlberta-Augustana topped the mixed competition, finishing 8-2 overall after going 4-1 at the Avonair.
The team of skip Allyson Hamilton, third Dustin Rupertus, second Nadia vanBruinessen and lead Jackson Sweder rolled to victories over Lakeland (5-3), Olds (6-4), Portage (8-2) and RDC (5-3) and lost to NAIT (5-3) on the weekend.
"We've had a different skip each bonspiel, but both were very aggressive," said coach Andrew McIntosh. "This weekend, Allyson Hamilton was our skip. She played a very clean and aggressive game. She did it very well and the team supported her with that, so that was key."
UAA will be joined at the ACAC Championship by fellow qualifiers Lakeland (7-3), NAIT (7-3) and RDC (5-5). Olds (2-8) and Portage (1-9) failed to qualify. With the slate being clean once they arrive at the championship, McIntosh said the way they work as a team will be key.
"The big thing is the chemistry that they have," he explained. "They're really good at bringing each other up when they have a bad end, a bad shot.
"That was one of the things, certainly coming into this event that they really worked on – trying to help each other."