What started as a 12-team field – six men’s and six women’s team – at the 2022 FISU Qualifier at the RA Centre of Curling Excellence in Ottawa has been whittled down to all but the finalists.
As round-robin play concluded on Saturday afternoon, three teams of each gender were part of the playoff picture which saw the top seed from round-robin play earn a direct berth to their respective final, while the second and third seeds would face off in a semifinal on Saturday evening.
On the men’s side, the Dalhousie Tigers (4-1; Owen Purcell) earned the direct bye to the men’s final by virtue of their pool best record, setting the table for a “golden” semifinal between second seed Alberta Golden Bears (3-2; Ryan Jacques) and third seed Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks (3-2; Sam Mooibroek).
Mooibroek’s Golden Hawks would take the victory over the Golden Bears by a 9-7 score in what was a firecracker of a match.
The men wasted no time getting after it in the semi featuring aggressive strategy, rocks in play and plenty of stellar shot making; much to the delight of the fans who packed the bleacher seats.
“We finally had some fans for our game,” said skip Mooibroek about the ruckus playoff environment. “We’ve been a little quiet compared to some of the other teams, so that helped keep the guys’ motivation up and keep everyone playing well.”
While both teams were executing at an exceptionally high calibre, the busy houses ultimately favoured the Golden Hawks. The team manufactured big ends which gave them breathing room on the scoreboard, posting a score of three in the second end thanks to a crafty angle runback from Mooibroek and a four in the fifth end via a precision hit to remove an Alberta stone sandwiched between two Wilfrid Laurier stones.
The Golden Hawks were keen to celebrate the semifinal victory, but know that the real work lies in tomorrow morning’s final against the Dalhousie Tigers.
“I feel good,” said Mooibroek after the match. “We played well but we still have another game to win. Got to be able to come out and play like that again.”
Wilfrid Laurier downed the Dalhousie Tigers 10-4 in their previous round-robin matchup.
On the women’s side, the Alberta Pandas (5-0; Abby Marks) sported a perfect record through round robin play and punched their ticket directly through to the women’s final, while the semifinal featured the second seed Waterloo Warriors (4-1; Katie Ford) taking on the third seed Regina Cougars (3-2; Krystal Englot).
The Cougars would coast to a 11-4 victory over the Warriors in the women’s semifinal which, in contrast to the men, began as a much more patient match-up where sound fundamentals and conservative strategy were on display.
“As a team, we try to stay level headed,” said skip Englot when asked about their approach to the semifinal match. “We play it as cool as we can.”
The Cougars are now winners of their last four games and feel their hot streak is only just beginning to peak.
“We do believe in it,” said Engot when asked about their team’s belief in momentum. “We don’t want to get too high and psych ourselves out in the hack, and also don’t want to get too low and then you can’t make a shot.”
Keeping it cool paid dividends for the team from Regina.
After blanks from both squads and a force in the early goings, the Cougar’s patience would pay off in the 4th end. Capitalizing on a few Warrior run-back attempts that had gone awry and left Cougar rocks in scoring position, Englot would be left with an angle tap to remove a lone Warrior stone on the four foot to score four.
The Cougars then began to turn on the heat in the fifth end without hammer finding cracks in the Warriors’ armour. With far more rocks in play and creative angles available to both teams, Englot managed to weld a perfect freeze with her final stone in the fifth, managing a steal of one to extend the lead to 5-1.
The Warriors would not go quietly however, scoring a three in the seventh end to pull within four points, but it was too little too late for the Waterloo squadron as the Warriors would concede the game at the conclusion of the ninth end.
“Giving up that three could have felt like a big loss,” said Englot about surrendering points in the seventh end. “But it really wasn’t. We stayed collected and that’s how it turned out.”
The Regina Cougars will now face the Alberta Pandas in Sunday morning’s final. Alberta won their preview matchup in the round robin by an 8-3 score.
Both finals are scheduled for 11 a.m. Eastern on Sunday morning.