By Michael Norton
Ahead of their first game at the 2017 U Sports/Curling Canada University Championships on Saturday evening, each member of the Ryerson Rams women’s curling team threw around 80-100 rocks in practices to get a feel for the ice at the Fort William Curling Club in Thunder Bay.
It seemed to work; the Rams played brilliantly in the program’s national championship debut and defeated the St. Francis Xavier X-Women 8-3.
But no two curling clubs have the same ice, and as the Rams found out the hard way on Sunday, no one club is guaranteed to have the same ice from one day to the next.
The Rams struggled to find their form on Sunday, particularly on their draw weight, and dropped both of their games as a result. A 10-4 loss to the Alberta Pandas, followed by a 5-4 defeat to the tournament host Lakehead Thunderwolves sunk the Rams to 1-2, meaning the Rams will likely need at least one win on Monday to stay in the playoff hunt.
Game #1: Rams vs Alberta Pandas
The Rams started their game against the Pandas without hammer, but two good takeouts from skip Maggie Macintosh forced Pandas skip Kristen Streifel to just a single point. The Rams were unable to take advantage of the good defensive start, as Macintosh came up light on a draw to the four foot for two points in the second end.
After the Pandas got two points with hammer in the third end, the fourth end saw good hit-and-rolls from both second Audrey Wallbank and vice Nicole Titkai put them in scoring position. But, needing to draw to the eight foot circle to score one, Macintosh was again light on her draw weight, giving the Pandas a steal of one and a 4-1 lead after 4 ends.
It would be the first of three Alberta steals in the game, and it would not be the end of Macintosh’s struggles. After Titkai made a wonderful freeze in the four foot circle with her first, the Pandas continued to load up the house with rocks. Macintosh was forced to throw a difficult hit-and-roll, but her shot didn’t curl enough and gave the Pandas a big steal of two points.
A second steal of two by the Pandas in the sixth end put the game all but out of reach. Another great freeze from Titkai, combined with a Streifel miss on an open takeout, allowed the Rams to score a pair and finally take advantage of hammer in the seventh end. Macintosh would figure out her draw weight in the eighth end, getting behind her own guard to steal another point, but a Pandas takeout for two points in the ninth end was enough for the Rams to decide to shake hands.
Heard in clubhouse, I think: Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” as a ringtone. Rams need some rain on their wedding day here as End 6 begins.
— Michael Norton (@TheRealNort) March 19, 2017
Macintosh said that even before the game began that the Rams didn’t seem to have the same stride they had on Saturday.
“We started off and our practice rocks were really poor, we had a really poor showing with the weight for… our draw(s) to the pin [two shots at the end of warmup to determine which team begins the game with hammer],” Macintosh said. For those two throws, Titkai’s rock was short of the house, while lead Teagan Walton was only able to land at the top of the 12 foot circle. “My draw weight was on and off… but we all struggled with draw weight,” Macintosh said.
Game #2: Rams vs Lakehead Thunderwolves
Macintosh said she was happy to have gotten “my bad game out of the way,” and it appeared the entire Rams team was on the road to a rebound win in their evening game against the Lakehead Thunderwolves. Two good draws to the back of the house, the second behind cover, from Macintosh, forced Thunderwolves skip Hailey Beaudry to draw for a single point in the first end. After an inch-perfect draw to the pin in warmups, Beaudry couldn’t find the right weight again, and the Rams got a steal of one. Great draws from Titkai, and smooth hitting from Macintosh forced Beaudry to throw away her final stone in both the second and third ends to blank the end and retain hammer.
The Rams’ good string of shotmaking would continue into the fourth end, where they would finally force Beaudry to take just a single point with hammer and tie the game at 1. In the fifth end, the Rams front end came out aggressively, loading up the house with rocks. Multiple missed Thunderwolves takeouts, and more draws from Titkai and Macintosh, gave Macintosh a difficult double takeout opportunity with her last shot to score as many as six. Macintosh finally cracked, overcurling slightly on the attempt and only scoring a single point.
It would be the Thunderwolves turning the tables on the Rams in the sixth end, putting up multiple rocks in the centre of the house and then guarding them nicely to put themselves in position for a big score. Missed angle raise takeouts from both Titkai and Macintosh gave Beaudry a chance to draw for four with her last rock, but she too couldn’t capitalize, coming up light but still managing to score three points in the end.
After calling a timeout, Beaudry made perhaps the best shot in any of the Rams’ games so far this tournament. Beaudry took aim at the rock on the right side of the house, sitting on the upper right corner of the eight foot. Beaudry made just the right amount of contact with the Rams rock to roll her stone and hit the other Rams stone at the back edge of the eight foot on the left side of the house. The spectacular cross-house double takeout forced the Rams to just a single point in the eighth end, and it all but ended any momentum the Rams had gathered earlier in the end. The teams would trade single scores in the eighth and ninth ends, and needing a steal in the tenth end, Macintosh’s second stone didn’t quite hit-and-roll into scoring position. Beaudry’s final stone was not thrown, and the Rams conceded the 5-4 loss.
“We definitely could have scored a bundle,” second Audrey Wallbank, referring to the fifth end, said. “But the double that Maggie was going for was definitely difficult.”
Wallbank said she was happy with how the Rams started their game against Lakehead following their struggles against Alberta. She said that even on misses the Rams were getting “half-made” shots, and that scoring opportunities would arise had they continued that level of play.
While Beaudry’s brilliant double takeout in the seventh end didn’t discourage Wallbank about her team’s chances of winning, it did send a shock to her system.
“That shot was a little out of nowhere, because we thought we had swept the other one far back enough [to eliminate the angle for a double], but evidently we hadn’t,” Wallbank said.
“You want that shot to be yours, you know how it feels to make that shot… there were some shot that just weren’t there and (Beaudry) was making them, so she deserved the win.”
As a team, the Rams shot 74 per cent in their win against the X-Women on Saturday night. That total dropped down to just 58 per cent against the Pandas. That number rose slightly, to 64 per cent, against the Thunderwolves, but in that game each team member’s shooting percentages declined after the fifth-end break.
%s after 10 ends:
Goes without saying that the second half was not as good as the first. https://t.co/2ENIwxt8eV
— Michael Norton (@TheRealNort) March 20, 2017
The 1-2 Rams will look to bounce back at the national championships on Monday. They’ll face the 0-3 New Brunswick Varsity Reds at 2 p.m., and they’ll square off against the 2-1 Laurentian Voyageurs (who they lost by a score of 6-4 to in the final of the OUA Championship in February) at 7 p.m.
The Eyeopener will have all your coverage of the Rams throughout the tournament.
Boxscores for Sunday’s games
*LSFE = Last Stone First End*
Round Robin Standings
|St. Francis Xavier X-Women||2-1|
|New Brunswick Varsity Reds||0-3|