Keffer relishing jr. nationals experience
While her 3-6 record was not what she had hoped for going into the event, the chance to compete at the M&M Meat Shops Canadian Junior Curling Championships in Fort McMurray, Alta. last week was one that Fort Frances native Tirzah Keffer will never forget.
“It’s really hard to describe it in just a couple of words,” explained Keffer, who is studying English concurrent education at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay.
“Even though we didn’t meet our goal and didn’t perform as well as we wanted to, we learned a lot and we don’t regret anything,” she stressed.
One of the things Keffer and the rest of her Northern Ontario foursome from the Port Arthur Curling Club, which included Sheree Hinz at third, Megan Westlund at second, and lead Rachel Camlin, was how to work through situations when things weren’t going their way.
“We were told going into the tournament that we shouldn’t get down about a loss,” Keffer recalled.
“We learned a lot from losing a lot of games, and I think that it was good for our team as we hadn’t been in that position for a while, so it taught us a lot,” she added.
Another thing Keffer noticed was the amount of dedication the teams that make it to the national level have, especially with the eventual women’s champs from British Columbia, which was skipped by Corryn Brown.
“That entire team is 17 years old and they been together for seven years, and they still have three years of junior eligibility left,” Keffer said.
“We told them that they are so lucky that they have been together for that long.
“I’ve been curling with my third and my lead for only two years, and our second just joined us this year,” she noted.
After finishing Pool ‘B’ play with a 2-4 record last Tuesday, Keffer found herself having to win two tie-breaker games to earn a berth into the Championship Pool, which was a new format brought into this year’s nationals.
But they ran up against a red-hot Northwest Territories rink that was led by skip Carina McKay-Saturnino, who ended Northern Ontario’s playoff hopes with a 10-5 win Tuesday night.
“When we played them the first time, we had done really well against them so were expecting a really good game,” Keffer recalled.
“But they just gave us nothing to work with and they didn’t miss anything, and they would have a couple of situations where they would go for a peel and end up making a run-back double take-out.
“We were wondering, ‘What the heck is going on here,’” Keffer admitted.
“But we weren’t really frustrated or anything like that as we were having a really good game against them.”
McKay-Saturnino wound up losing the second tie-breaker game to Quebec’s Sarah Dumais the following morning in the battle for the final playoff spot.
Following their loss to the Northwest Territories, Keffer’s rink was placed in a seeding pool that will help determine the rankings for next year’s national championships, where they picked up one more win with a 17-1 whitewash over Sadie Pinksen (Nunavut) on Wednesday night.
“We played well in the games that we won, but I wouldn’t say there was one that really stood out from all of the others,” Keffer said.
“There were a couple of games that we would have liked to have back, especially against Ontario and Manitoba earlier in the week.
“We were tied in the last end against Ontario and we fought really hard to make her [Jamie Spencer] throw her last stone,” she noted.
“But if we had made a couple of key shots early on in the game, we could have won.
“We would also like to play Manitoba again because we had a good game against them, but we didn’t play our best.”
Off of the ice, Keffer was the recipient of the Joan Mead Legacy Award—and the $500 scholarship that went with it—during the annual awards banquet on Friday.
Her third (Hinz) was honoured with the fair play and Ken Watson Sportsmanship awards while her second (Westlund) was named a second-team all-star.
“Everyone was bugging us and asked us, ‘How did your team rack up all of the awards?’” Keffer laughed.
“It was funny, though, when they announced the Joan Mead Awards, they had announced that Sheree had won, and we were all confused because she had never submitted an essay that you have to send in for it.
“So she went up there and said, ‘I didn’t submit an essay, I don’t know if I’m . . .’ and we were telling her to just take the award.
“It turned out that they had actually announced the winners of the sportsmanship awards instead of the Joan Mead Awards, so they called them back up to get their actual awards, so that was kind of funny to watch,” Keffer added.
While her games had wrapped up before then, Keffer stuck around Fort McMurray to watch the men’s final on Saturday night, followed by the women’s final a night later.
“The atmosphere was great and all of the teams that were still there had their faces painted up and were cheering for both teams,” Keffer recalled.
“When [Manitoba’s] Matt Dunstone threw his final stone in the men’s final, everybody stood up to see if he made the take-out, and it was pretty crazy to see everyone react to it when he did.
“I had never been at a final game for anything like that in person, so it was really cool to be in that environment.”
While Keffer currently is preparing to reunite with her Muskie teammates for the annual ladies’ bonspiel at the Fort Frances Curling Club this weekend, she will be spending the next little while trying to take everything in before thinking about the upcoming curling season.
“Our team is breaking up after this year because of age reasons, as myself and Megan will both be too old to play in the junior level,” she noted.
“I’ve been spoken to by a couple of people already for next year, but I just told them that I was focusing on the juniors so I would talk to them later on.
“I have no idea if I want to skip or play another position with another team, so I will take a lot of time to digest everything before going into women’s play,” she stressed.