Keffer ready to skip rink at nationals
With her opening game at the M&M Canadian Junior Curling Championships in Fort McMurray, Alta. only days away, it’s starting to hit home for Fort Frances native Tirzah Keffer that she and the rest of her rink from the Port Arthur Curling Club in Thunder Bay will be representing Northern Ontario on a national stage.
“We were trying to not get so pumped up early on as we were trying to do our homework for school,” explained Keffer, who is studying English concurrent education at Lakehead University.
“And when we received our Northern Ontario jackets last week, that’s when it started to hit home for us.”
The Keffer rink, which also features third Sheree Hinz, second Megan Westlund, and lead Rachel Camlin, punched their ticket to the national playdowns earlier this month after beating Sudbury’s Krysta Burns 7-4 in the provincial final in Sault Ste. Marie.
Since then, the rink has been hard at work to get their game in top form heading into the nationals. But that didn’t include making any major changes to what has made them successful so far.
“We don’t want to do anything out of the ordinary,” Keffer reasoned.
“We have our games on Monday nights at the Fort William [club] and on Tuesday nights at the Port Arthur, and we also have our regular practices two times a week,” she noted.
“So we didn’t want to throw anything in there that we haven’t done before or put in something that we are not used to,” Keffer stressed.
“The only thing that we had to switch up was our pre-game practice routine as it goes from 10 minutes at the provincial [level] to nine minutes at the nationals.”
When it comes to the shot-making department, the Keffer foursome has been working on a number of different scenarios they feel probably will play out during their games in Fort McMurray.
“We’ve been working on making double peels instead of single peels, and a couple of finesse take-outs,” she explained.
“We are thinking that there is going be a very high level of curling there, so we are doing anything to get ahead of our opponents and trying to master everything that we can,” she laughed.
After flying out from Thunder Bay tomorrow morning, the rink will have some practice time and a chance to meet their fellow competitors prior to their opening game Saturday afternoon, when they’ll take on last year’s runner-up in Manitoba’s Shannon Birchard.
“To have a chance to meet and mingle with the other teams, and get to know everybody before we start playing, is going to be really nice,” Keffer said.
“We know the Manitoba team a little bit as she was at a bonspiel we played in earlier this winter in Brandon, but we haven’t actually met them or anyone else yet,” she added.
With all three of Canada’s territories being represented at the national juniors for the very first time, this year’s event will see a new format in order to accommodate all 14 teams.
All of the rinks will compete in a round-robin tournament that consists of two seven-team pools from Saturday until Tuesday, with the top four teams in each one then advancing to a championship pool, which will run from Wednesday to Friday to determine the top three teams for the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the three teams from each pool that miss out on making the championship pool after the round-robin will compete in a seeding pool Wednesday to Friday, which will determine the provincial and territorial seedings for next year.
“It’ll be a little bit different, for sure, especially with 14 teams there,” Keffer admitted.
“We haven’t done anything like this before so we are just going in there to play our best.
“We are going in knowing that we belong there after winning the provincials, and our goal is to make it out of our pool and see where we go from there,” she reasoned.
Prior to heading out, Keffer and the rest of her team received a lot of support from those in the Lakehead and elsewhere, including her hometown of Fort Frances.
“I know that everyone in Fort Frances has been sending their support, whether it is from the curling club or the rest of the community,” she noted.
“My parents have been sending me e-mails letting me know who is sending their congratulations and best wishes to us, and that has really meant a lot.
“Here at the [Port Arthur] club, everyone has been congratulating us.
“And it’s really exciting here because both our team and Matt’s [Roberts] team will be representing Northern Ontario from the same club.
“Everyone has told us that we are going to have an amazing time and we can’t wait to get going,” Keffer enthused.
The women’s final will take place Sunday, Feb. 10, which will air nationally on TSN at 6 p.m. (CST).
The winner will advance to represent Canada at the worlds in Sochi, Russia from Feb. 28-March 10.