The Richmond Curling Club’s British Columbia 2, comprised of skip Johnson Tao, third Toby Mills, second Connor Kent, lead Michael Nunn, and coach Vic Shimizu, can be described in one simple word: poised.
Entering Draw 11 play at the 2020 New Holland Canadian Junior Championships, Tao sported a 2-3 record and now faced a very strong Alberta team represented by Ryan Jacques (2-3; Edmonton). A loss would spell the end of Tao’s hopes at playoffs, while a win would guarantee his rink at minimum a tie-breaker.
As a bonus, should the remaining Pool A match-ups play out in Tao’s favour, a 3-3 record could grant him a direct berth into the championship pool.
Fast forward to to tenth end of Draw 11. Tao, with hammer and tied 4-4, has the final and potentially winning rock in his hand; an open hit and stick against an Alberta rock biting the top eight-foot being the only barrier between continuing to pursue the podium at the 2020 New Holland Canadian Junior Championships and the agony of being eliminated from contention.
“I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t nervous,” said Tao. “It was a routine shot but I was nervous.”
Throwing board weight and allowing his sweepers to doctor the rock as required down the sheet, Tao makes no mistake and removes the Alberta shot stone from play. The dust settles, handshakes are offered and Tao’s British Columbia 2 rink win by a score of 5-4.
“I thought we played a solid game overall. At the start, we were a little shaky here and there getting caught by a few small things. By the second half, we had really picked it up. We rallied back and won it today.” said Tao.
None of Tao’s British Columbia 2 rink have ever competed at a national event prior to these Canadian Juniors, but all showed the composure of wily veterans in high pressure situations.
“I really need to credit coach Vic and Curl BC High Performance for getting us this far,” said Tao. “If we keep playing the way we are and keep the momentum going, I think we have a great chance.”
Should Alberta defeat British Columbia 1’s Hayata Sato (3-2; New Westminster) in Draw 12 at 7 p.m. PST, the final draw of round robin play, all three teams would finish with a 3-3 record leaving tiebreakers to be settled by head to head win-loss record. Since all three would share 1-1 records versus one and other, round robin shoot-out scores would be used as the next benchmark for the tie-breakers. The team with the best shootout score (from their pre-game draws to the pin to determine hammer) is to be granted third place in Pool A and a direct berth into the championship round.
A 9 a.m. PST sudden death match-up on January 22 would await the other two teams to determine the fourth and final championship pool spot.
In other men’s Draw 11 action, Ontario’s Owen Purdy (2-4; Kingston) defeated the Northwest Territories’ Sawer Kaeser (0-6; Fort Smith) 8-2. Manitoba’s Brett Walter (3-2; Winnipeg) improved his record with a 7-3 win over Québec’s Greg Cheal (1-5; Lennoxville).
On the women’s side, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Mackenzie Mitchell (4-2; St. John’s) defeated Yukon’s Bayly Scoffin (0-6; Whitehorse) by a score of 13-3. Northern Ontario’s Kira Brunton (2-3; Sudbury) posted an 8-3 win over Prince Edward Island’s Lauren Ferguson (1-5; Cornwall). Manitoba’s Mackenzie Zacharias (5-0; Altona) remained perfect with a 7-5 win over New Brunswick’s Melodie Forsythe (3-3; Moncton). Alberta’s Abby Marks (5-1; Edmonton) needed an extra end to defeat British Columbia’s Kaila Buchy (3-3; Kimberly) by a score of 5-4.
The 2020 New Holland Canadian Junior Championships resume from the George Preston Recreation Centre in the Township of Langley, British Columbia for draw 12 action at 7 p.m. PST.