Laurier: 6 Alberta: 4
THUNDER BAY, Ont. (March 22, 2017) – The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks run at the 2017 U SPORTS/Curling Canada men’s curling championship came to an end on Tuesday evening as they suffered a 10-2 loss to the Regina Cougars in the final draw of the round robin.
Laurier, who entered the day with a 2-3 record, put themselves in contention to qualify for the playoffs thanks to an impressive 6-4 win over the Alberta Golden Bears in Draw 6. That result left the team needing a win against the Cougars to advance but the Hawks came out flat and saw their record drop to 3-4.
With four teams tied for the fourth and final playoff spot, including the Golden Hawks, the position was determined by a head-to-head tiebreaker, which failed to go the way of the purple and gold.
“There’s not one thing really that went wrong,” said head coach Matt Wilkinson
after the team failed to advance out of the round robin. “We never really got on a roll. It was one of those weeks where we fought some things, fought some ice, fought some weight, just behind the eight ball in a lot of games. But the guys battled and I’m proud of them.”
The result was unfortunate for Laurier as they played perhaps their best game of the week to open the day on Tuesday.
In a showdown between the Golden Bears and Golden Hawks, the two schools to play for the national championship each of the last two years, both teams brought their ‘A’ games to the contest.
Needing a win to remain in the playoff hunt, the Hawks fell behind early when Alberta scored two in the second end but remained patient and responded with two of their own in the fifth to tie the contest at the fifth end break.
The two teams would trade scores of two in the sixth and seventh ends, leaving the game tied 4-4 heading to the final three ends.
After a blank in the eighth end, Laurier got a great shot from vice Jordie Lyon-Hatcher
of Ottawa, to bury a rock behind the centre line guard. Then, on his last shot, skip Matthew Hall of Kitchener, Ont., executed the perfect hit-and-roll to give Laurier two rocks buried behind cover.
On his final shot attempt, Alberta skip Thomas Scoffin’s rock didn’t curl enough and Laurier stole two to take a 6-4 lead.
In the 10th end, the Hawks ran the Golden Bears out of rocks, highlighted by an angle-raise takeout by Hall on his final shot to pick up the win.
“I’m proud of the boys the way they came out this morning,” said Wilkinson on picking up the win in a rematch of last year’s national championship game. “That one is always circled on the calendar with the Alberta-Laurier rivalry and if we could have played like that the whole week, we could have been untouchable.”
With momentum on their side following the win over Alberta, the Hawks looked poised for a strong performance against Regina.
However, after giving up a single point in the first end, Laurier missed their final shot in the second end, giving up a steal of one, and it was downhill from there.
The purple and gold would give up steals in each of the next three ends and once the game reached eight ends, the minimum required to play at nationals, the team shook hands giving the Cougars the victory.
With a 3-4 record, the team was still alive for the final playoff spot after the Queen’s Gaels lost to the Memorial Sea-Hawks. Tied with Queen’s, Regina and Dalhousie in the standings, Laurier came out on the wrong end of the tiebreaker, holding just a 1-2 record against those teams to drop out of playoff spot. That left the purple and gold sixth overall for the week.
Despite missing out on the playoffs, Wilkinson believes the season was a success for a young Laurier squad that will return at least three of five players from this year’s team.
“OUA gold is always big for the program. We are a banner sport, we were able to bring a banner home [this season] so that’s still very important to us, to the school, to everyone involved.”