STRATFORD, Ont. — New Brunswick skip Justine Comeau had two priorities as she was watching her final shot Monday night at the 2016 Canadian Junior Curling Championships, presented by Egg Farmers of Ontario.
At the other end, her vice-skip Emma Le Blanc was in the midst of an awkward fall onto the ice, tripping on a moving rock send in motion by Comeau’s takeout.
But the fate of her teammate was No. 2 on Comeau’s list of concerns.
“I wanted to make sure I made the shot first,” said Comeau with a laugh. “Then I could worry about Emma.”
Well, good news all around for the New Brunswick women’s team — an 8-5 win over Northern Ontario’s Megan Smith (1-3; Sudbury) to run New Brunswick’s win streak to four, and Le Blanc was just fine, thank you.
“I have no idea what happened,” said Le Blanc. “I think I tripped on a rock. It’s usually Justine who’s falling. Last year in the preliminary playdowns, she fell down and nearly broke her tailbone.
“I’m just really embarrassed. Happy about winning, but embarrassed!”
No reason to be, of course — it’s happened to every curler at one time or another, and few of them have had the chance to do it at a national championship, for a team that appears to be bound for the Championship Round with a 4-1 record.
“That was a must-win for us,” said Comeau, 17, whose team includes second (and sister) Brigitte Comeau, lead Keira McLaughlin and coach (and dad) Tim Comeau. “We know Manitoba (4-0, and New Brunswick’s opponent on Tuesday afternoon) is a really tough team, and the way we’ve been playing, we knew we would have a chance tonight. It was crucial to win that game.”
Comeau is back at her second straight Canadian Juniors after being the only skip to beat two-time world junior champ Kelsey Rocque at last year’s event in Corner Brook, N.L.
It didn’t start off so hot here as New Brunswick was blown out 12-3 by Quebec’s Laurie St-Georges in its opener, but it’s been nothing but wins ever since.
“We started off really, really rough but we’ve been able to pick it up,” said Comeau. “I’m playing better; Emma’s playing a lot better, and the other two are playing the same as they were before.
“We don’t really have any expectations, I guess, but we do expect to do well and play well, but we’re not worried about the standings. We just expect to play well and make shots.”
Manitoba’s Abby Ackland (Winnipeg; a 15-5 winner over Nunavut’s winless Sadie Pinksen of Iqaluit on Monday night), New Brunswick and Alberta’s Selena Sturmay (4-1; Airdrie) are on top of Pool A going into the final day of Preliminary Round play.
The top three teams in each pool, plus two teams with the next best won-lost records, advance to the Championship Round for a further four-game partial round robin from Wednesday through Friday, with their earlier records carried forward.
Meanwhile, the six teams of each gender that don’t qualify for the Championship Round meet in a Seeding Round to determine ranking for the 2017 Canadian Juniors in Victoria.
Quebec (3-2; Laval-sur-le-Lac) is close behind after a 15-4 win over Zoey Walsh of the Northwest Territories (0-4; Hay River) on Monday night.
In Pool B, Nova Scotia’s Mary Fay (Chester) leads the way at 5-0, while B.C.’s Sarah Daniels (4-0; New Westminster) also is unbeaten. While Nova Scotia had the bye Monday night, B.C. cruised to a 13-3 win over Newfoundland/Labrador’s Brooke Godsland (0-5; St. John’s). In the other Pool B game, Ontario’s Courtney Auld (3-1; Thornhill) was a 14-4 winner over the Yukon’s Alyssa Meger (0-4; Whitehorse).
In men’s play, both pool leaders — Manitoba’s Matt Dunstone (5-0; Winnipeg) in Pool A and B.C.’s Tyler Tardi (5-0; New Westminster/Langley) were idle Monday night.
In Pool A play, Quebec’s Félix Asselin (3-1; Montreal) earned an 11-0 win over Nunavut’s Arthur Siksik (0-5; Rankin Inlet); Ontario’s Doug Kee (3-2; Navan) put together a 7-3 win over Newfoundland/Labrador’s Greg Smith (1-3; Stephenville); and Alberta’s Karsten Sturmay (3-2; Edmonton) needed an extra end for a 9-8 win over Nova Scotia’s Matthew Manuel (1-3; Halifax).
In Pool B, New Brunswick’s Alex Robichaud (3-1; Moncton) downed Matt Miller of the Northwest Territories (0-5; Inuvik) 12-1; and Saskatchewan’s Jake Hersikorn (3-1; Saskatoon) turned back Brayden Klassen of the Yukon (0-4; Whitehorse) 8-3.
Action at the 2016 Canadian Juniors continues Tuesday with draws at 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. (all times EST).