Okotokian completes provincial quest on home ice

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Curling: Rhiley Quinn and Team Bakker U18 champions

The roaring game came full circle for an Okotokian’s biggest day on the ice.

Rhiley Quinn and Team Bakker completed a two-year journey to the top of the heap at the Optimist U18 Women’s Curling Provincial on Sunday after a 5-3 victory over the defending champion Team Marks in familiar surroundings at the Okotoks Curling Club.

“It’s crazy. I remember the first time I practiced here with my dad I was like six,” said Quinn, the second on Team Bakker. “It’s kind of insane that I won a provincial championship in the same rink that I first started curling in. I don’t even have words.”

Team Bakker — featuring skip Ryleigh Bakker, third Hannah Phillips, Quinn and lead Hannah Airie — got past a familiar foe for a victory one year in the making.

At last year’s provincials Bakker finished second to Marks.

“We played them in the round-robin at junior provincials this year in December and beat them,” Quinn said. “We really had a strong game plan and knew what we were going to do, just keep it clean the first couple ends and then mix it up a little bit and get our rocks in play.”

The plan worked to a tee.

Marks was unable to take advantage of hammer, forced into blanking the first two ends. Bakker stole one in the third to holster the early momentum. The fourth end saw nearly every rock in play with Marks making a pinpoint bump-and-run to take two.

Finally with hammer for the first time, Bakker put up a deuce in the fifth and didn’t look back. Team Bakker picked up a single on a measurement in the sixth and were sitting four in the seventh before the Edmonton skip made a nice draw for one.

“It was really close, we almost had some big ends,” Quinn said. “But we were really confident the whole time, we knew we had it.”

With hammer and a 4-3 lead in the eighth it was going to take something special for the defending champions to repeat.

Bakker had a clean draw for the win and stuck it right in the button.

“It was keeping everything clean and making sure Ryleigh had a path for her last shot to make that draw and we pinned it,” Quinn said. “We knew she had it right as she sat in the hack, she’s made those all the time.

“It was a great feeling to know all she had to do was hit the house.”

The provincial conquest came with a few detours on the inimitable Okotoks ice.

Team Bakker was 3-2 in round-robin, qualifying for the championship round in the C-event. Once in the playoff round they blitzed Team Bakos 8-1 and eked out a 7-6 result over Jessica Wytrychowski in the semifinal.

“We’re all super close, I think we all consider each other to be best friends,” Quinn added. “Just to have each other’s support throughout the whole journey, we played eight games this week. It was a long road, but we all had each other’s back the whole time.”

Back on top

In his third consecutive trip the championship game Edmonton’s Ryan Jacques took back the Optimist U18 Men’s title.

Jacques fought off a 5-2 deficit, forced an extra-end on a measurement and completed the comeback in a 7-5 victory over Airdrie’s Desmond Young in the thrilling final, Sunday at the Okotoks Curling Club.

“Both teams played extremely well,” Jacques said. “We were down two in the sixth end and I had a draw to the 12-foot, but unfortunately went a little heavy and he was able to steal. That was really crushing because we were down three.

“We just said we’re not out of this yet, there is still two ends left and we can comeback and what do you know it happened.”

Young had been the team to beat in the competition, boasting a 4-0 record entering the gold medal game.

The provincial champion in 2016 and runner-ups last year, Jacques, third Dustin Mikush, second Gabriel Dyck and lead Michael Henricks, had a bumpier ride to the final with a 5-3 record in Okotoks.

Leaning on their championship experience, they saved their best for last.

“It was really good to come here knowing that we already done that before,” Jacques said. “And just pulling that experience and moving it forward into this game so we can zone in and not be as stressed about this game. Banking off that experience was really helpful.”

Maritime bound

Both Alberta representatives advance to the U18 Canadian Curling Championships in Saint Andrews, New Brunswick April 9-14.

“The goal is to definitely win there,” Quinn said. “Finishing top in the round-robin will be a really good start and we’re really hoping to represent Alberta the best we can and hopefully get that national championship.”

It’s just the second year the U18 provincial winners have competed at nationals. Previously, the victors went on to the U18 Optimist International Championships against select Canadian, American and overseas squads.

For more information on the event go to curling.ca/2018under18

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