Mike Badiuk sports a quiet confidence but make no mistake: he believes in his team’s chances.
The Devlin native will make his way to Calgary tomorrow in preparation for his return to the M&M Meat Shops Canadian junior men’s curling championship, which begins Saturday and runs until Feb. 6.
A berth in the world championships in Perth, Scotland from March 5-13 is at stake for the winner.
Badiuk will play third for the Cody Johnston rink from the Fort William Curling Club in Thunder Bay, which also features second Mark Adams and lead Michael Makela.
“We’re probably one of the favourites going in,” said the 20-year-old, whose faith in his team’s potential rests on the fact that, while it was newly put together this season, all four members have national experience.
Adams, the newcomer this year, has been to the Canadians twice before. The others, who have been a group for the past three years, also made it to the nationals in Salmon Arm, B.C. in 2009 under skip Dylan Johnston of Thunder Bay—and made it all the way to the final before losing to P.E.I.’s Brett Gallant.
Last year, Johnston’s rink was stopped in the Northwestern Ontario final by Christian Tolusso of the Port Arthur Curling Club.
This year, Badiuk and Co. won the regionals in Thunder Bay, beating out Isaac Keffer of Fort Frances in the process.
From there, it was on to the provincials in North Bay two weeks ago, where the Johnston rink was strong throughout and blew the doors off Port Arthur’s Brennan Wark and his rink in the final.
“We’re excited. We’re playing really well,” Badiuk enthused. “We’re looking to get what we should have won two years ago.
“It’s definitely unfinished business for us,” he stressed.
Only four other rinks that made the nationals two years ago will be back this time around—something Badiuk doesn’t necessarily view as a hindrance.
“It’s almost an advantage not knowing who you’re going to be playing,” he reasoned.
“You prepare yourself better whereas, if you know your opponent, you take for granted the importance of mentally preparing and being focused.”
Ask Badiuk where his team’s weak area might be and that straightforward confidence again is evident.
“I don’t have a clue,” he replied. “All around, we’re playing really good.
“We had a good record in Major League Curling, which includes all the best men’s teams in Thunder Bay,” he noted. “We were something like 9-4 and made about $1,000 during the season.
“It helps your confidence a lot.”
The only bump in the road Badiuk foresees is Ontario champ Matt Camm of Ottawa.
“We’ve played them five times and never beat them yet,” Badiuk acknowledged. “They’ve all been close games.
“I’m thinking it’s going to be between us and them at the nationals,” he predicted.
Having never curled in Calgary, Badiuk is ready to confront the unknown when it comes to ice conditions.
“The ice conditions at nationals are usually really good, so I’m not worried,” he remarked. “We’ll have enough time to practice on it to get a feel for it.”
Meanwhile, the idea of representing his country in Scotland has Badiuk salivating at the prospect.
“That would be fantastic,” he enthused.
“I hope it’s our time, especially because this is the last year of junior for all of us on the team.”