Randy in the Rings: Shot management at core of potential improvement

Jacob Horgan

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Within elite curling circles, it’s not that hard to figure out that we are nearing the apex of the Olympic quadrennial cycle.

Top-end teams of male and female curlers right across the country are gearing up for their shot to represent Canada in Beijing come February 2022.

While they might well be considered a bit of a long shot, siblings Tanner and Jake Horgan and teammates Jonathan Beuk, Wesley Forget and Scott Chadwick are highly focused on the upcoming pre-trials in Liverpool, N.S., a set of playdowns being hosted from Oct. 26 to 31.

“We’re definitely trying to peak for that event,” said Jake Horgan, who served as vice this past weekend as Team Beuk advanced to the semifinals of the Capital Curling Fall Classic in Ottawa before falling to the Swiss team skipped by Yves Stocker by a final count of 7-6.

“We have two practice weekends booked as well as two more events and I think those will be two very productive practice weekends that should help our chances. We’re continuing to gel as a team, continuing to learn how to play with each other.”

That gradual progression was evidenced as the Sudbury- and Kingston-based lads posted a 2-1 record in round-robin play, edging Mac Calwell 4-3 and blasting Jordan McNamara 8-1, but taking it on the chin at the hands of the Jean-Sebastien Roy quartet from of Buckingham, Que.

“We didn’t know if we were in the playoffs until close to midnight,” said Horgan. “The first three games, we weren’t figuring out the small details well enough. We had a good team debrief after the big loss Saturday night. We came out Sunday morning and we were a completely different team.”

The Beuk squad (Tanner had the weekend off with the team using a five-man rotation) turned the tables on Team Roy, whitewashing their opponents 8-0 before losing a tight one to a very hard-working Swiss entry.

“Our solid play continued into the semifinals,” said Horgan. “They were very sharp when they needed to be and the skip made some really nice shots to save them in a few ends.”

Given the precision that is inherent in their game, it might be difficult for the casual curler to envision a whole lot of room for improvement as Horgan and company ready themselves for their first legitimate shot at the Olympics. The youngest of the very talented family of curlers would suggest otherwise.

“The biggest area where we would see, right now, the opportunity to get better is in the shot management, that type of stuff,” stated Jake Horgan. “At this point in time, we all have pretty good deliveries; we all throw it relatively close, most of the time. It’s once the rock is out of the hand, getting it to that really precise spot, each shot — that’s where we get the biggest advantage at getting better.

“That’s when it really becomes a team game, after the rock is thrown. It takes all four guys to have good communication, strong sweeping, solid techniques for sweeping — that’s something as a team that we are really working on.”

The Horgans were not the only Sudbury presence in Ottawa, with the Northern Equipment Rental foursome of Sandy MacEwan, Dustin Montpellier, Lee Toner and Luc Ouimet also in the same event.

The Curl Sudbury reps were eliminated after picking up a win and two losses, edged 7-6 in extra ends in their opener by Yannick Martel of Sept-Iles, then bouncing back to defeat Greg Inglis 8-3 before being sent to the sidelines by Mike Fournier of Glenmore, 7-1.

Ottawa also marked the end of the line in terms of the 2022 Olympic hopes of Kira Brunton and Team Mann. A 12-2 setback to Jessie Hunkie bumped them down to Draw B, where they knocked off both Jill Brothers 8-6 and Ashley Howard 7-5.

On the wrong end of an 8-6 scoreboard with Kaitlyn Jones, Team Mann had no wiggle room remaining when the Brothers rink got their revenge, besting Kira’s crew 10-6 and moving on to claim one of the two qualifying berths that will now compete in Liverpool on the women’s side.

Over in Guelph, the Bella Croisier U21 rink split their first four games before succumbing in the C final, 9-2 to Rachel Steele of High Park. Representing the Idylwylde Golf and Country Club, the team of Bella Croisier, Julia Bakos, Emilie Lovitt and Piper Croisier overcame a 4-3 deficit after six ends, outscoring Daniela Aucoin in game one, 6-4.

They improved to 2-0 with a 6-3 win over Hannah Anderson of Tam Heather Curling, but then came up short against Veronica Bernard, 8-7, and Emily Deschenes, 7-1, sending the locals to the C bracket.

Tanner Horgan took advantage of his weekend off with Team Beuk, making his way to Oakville with mixed doubles partner Keira McLaughlin. Beaten 6-5 by Sarah Bailey and Dylan Sipura of St. Catharines, the Sudbury tandem righted the ship with back-to-back victories over Jenna Burchesky and Ben Richardson and Michelle and Jerry Butler, both by scores of 7-6.

A 9-5 loss to Lauren Wasylkiw and Shane Konings pitted the Horgan/McLaughlin tandem against Alli Flaxey and Patrick Janssen, with the GTA pair coming out on top, 6-4.

Finally, there’s some nice news to share in the Curling Canada women’s rankings.

With a pair of bonspiel championships on their resume, the Tracy Fleury rink was expected to be near the top, sitting fifth overall behind Laura Walker, Kerri Einarson, Hollie Duncan and Kerry Galusha, all teams that have been busier to date.

Securing the 15th spot in the country, however, is the newly formed Curl Sudbury rink of Isabelle Ladouceur, Jamie Smith, Lauren Rajala and Katie Shaw.

The 2022 Canadian Mixed Doubles and the U Sports /CCAA Championships are slated to take place at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Arena from March 15 to 27. For more information or to volunteer for the event, kindly contact Kelly Irvine at info@curlsudbury.ca.

Randy in the Rings runs every other week during the curling season.