Guelph will be home away from home for the Excalibur curling teams this coming weekend. The Trent rink will play host at the 56th annual Ontario University Athletics curling championships at the Guelph Curling Club.
In a unique setup, the Guelph curling club had locked in the rights to hold the university provincial championship bonspiel for three years with hosting responsibilities to rotate between universities. This year marked Trent’s year to organize the four day event.
This year’s finals will see one of the largest championships in the league’s history with more university teams vying for gold than any other year. Only a few years ago there were a mere eight universities with teams. Now, with the growing success of the sport and its support at the university level, 27 teams representing 14 universities will be taking part in this year’s championships.
The Excalibur will have their work cut out for them as they look to replicate its success at last year’s championship. The men’s team won gold in 2011 and finished fourth at nationals. The women failed to qualify for last year’s event, but earned entry into this year’s event.
Trent’s female squad will see a seasoned rink take the ice at this year’s provincial bonspiel. Fourth year students, Lana Shapton and Loma Orpwood bookend the veteran team at the Skip and Lead positions respectively. Vice, Victoria Kyle and Second, Kate McKinnon, round out the experienced rink who hope to use last year’s disappointing finish as motivation to place in the top three at this championship.
“They are a very talented team,” states Trent’s Sport Information Officer Blair Hough. “Hopefully they’ll snag a medal.”
The men on the other hand have a younger rink making an appearance at this year’s event, having lost a few senior players to graduation.
Rookie Skip, Mike Kean leads the six man team that contains four first year curlers. Returning Vice, Adam Gagne and Lead, Chris Whitehill are the only members of last year’s championship rink. Hough, however, feels that the team’s youth shouldn’t be a detriment to the squad’s final placing.
“They should do well,” he states.
The championships kick off this Thursday February 16th at the Guelph curling club at 8:30 am. The women will hope to topple OUA powerhouse Western, while the men will take on Carlton University of Ottawa. The championship matches will take place on Monday February 20th at 3:30 pm.