After Canada won the semifinal at the World Junior-B Curling Championships in Lohja, Finland, the pressure was off on Monday.
With the top three teams advancing to the A-Group World Junior Curling Championships, Team Emily Deschenes of Ottawa and Halifax had accomplished the main goal.
“Winning the semifinal felt amazing, a huge relief lifted off our shoulders with the qualification,” said Taylour Stevens, part of Canada’s support team. “Although we knew we had a second life in the bronze medal game, if necessary, we wanted to take the pressure off ourselves and qualify as soon as possible. It made the last game feel like way less pressure and that we could just play for ourselves. “
But now, with a championship in sight, Canada had a few short hours to reset and focus on winning a gold medal at the Kisakallio Sports Institute.
“We allowed ourselves to celebrate what we had accomplished already,” said Stevens, “But then we regrouped and focused on bringing home the gold.”
Deschenes and her team of vice-skip Lauren Ferguson, second Alison Umlah and lead Cate Fitzgerald finished an undefeated run through the 24-team event and capped it off with a 5-4 win over Scotland’s Team Fay Henderson – the Scots’ only defeat of the tournament.
Canada’s roster is supported by coach Mary Mattatall, national coach Lori Olson-Johns, and former skip Stevens, who led the team to the Canadian title last spring. Due to age restrictions, Stevens was not eligible for the World Championship in the following season, and the team brought in Deschenes to skip.
While the game was fairly tight, Canada managed to take a two-point lead to the eighth and final end, with the last-rock advantage. With Scotland sitting two counters, Deschenes had an easy open “make it go away” takeout for the win. She rolled too far, but that didn’t matter. Scotland scored a point, but Canada hung on for the victory.
“We played without any pressure on ourselves, focusing on the moment and enjoying being in the gold medal game,” said Stevens.
Earlier in the day, Canada faced South Korea’s Team Bo Bae Kang in a semifinal matchup. While it was close for a few ends, Canada broke it open with a score of four in the fourth end. After a few more scores of single points, Canada claimed a 6-4 victory and, more importantly, a guaranteed spot on the podium.
Team Deschenes will now represent Canada at the 2023 World Junior Curling Championships, which will take place in Fuessen, Germany, from Feb. 25 – March 4, 2023.
“There is something special about the pressure of the Maple Leaf on our back and we look forward to feeling it again in Germany,” said Stevens.
Scotland and South Korea claimed the other two spots by virtue of their second- and third-place performances, respectively. South Korea won a high-scoring bronze-medal match over Turkey’s Team Ilknur Urusan, with an 11-10 final score.