Fort Frances hosts U-18 championships

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

Young curlers from across northern Ontario will fill the Fort Frances Curling Club (FFCC) starting Thursday morning for the Northern Ontario U-18 Provincials. The event was rescheduled from January, after being postponed due to COVID restrictions.

Teams will be coming from as far away as Englehart near the border with Quebec, Sault Ste-Marie, Sudbury, and Kakabeka Falls for a shot at qualifying for the U-18 nationals in Oakville, May 1-7.

The FFCC has two entries on the girls side, one team is skipped by Grace George and coached by Ron Silver. The other is skipped by Aili Chabot and coached by Charlotte Bazylewski.

The Chabot team is young, ranging between grades six and eight. Long-time coach Bazylewski likes to get young curlers into competitions early and right now there are not a lot of options for competitions so she’s happy to have the girls in the U-18s.

“They’re excited,” Bazylewski said. “Aili the skip is very competitive.”

Chabot has been in competitions before with older players and says she’s a little nervous but it’s fun.

“I’ve done it before and I skipped the team also,” Chabot said. “It’s nerve wracking at first but once you actually do it it’s kind of fun.”

The other players are nervous as well but feel like what they’ve learned over the winter has prepared them to compete among the older players. Bazylewski has had the girls play against other teams at the FFCC including men’s and women’s teams. The team consists of Chabot, the skip, Allie Saciuk at Vice-skip/Third, Rachel Ste. Croix at Second, Molly Tucker at Lead and Fifth Erin Tolley.

The other FFCC team in the tournament is skipped by Grace George. The team is coming off a silver medal performance at the final NorWOSSA bonspiel of the year in Kenora last week representing the Fort Frances High School Muskies. According to Muskies Athletic Director Tyson Grinsell, COVID restrictions and a lack of teams meant that the high school curling season was far from normal.

“Usually curling is split into Boys, Girls and Mixed divisions,” Grinsell said. “However, this year we didn’t have enough teams in NorWOSSA so we had to improvise with the schedule. We ran events and had all teams play against each other, so boys teams played against mixed teams and also girls teams etc. Then at the end of the day, medals were awarded to the top boys’ teams, top girls’ teams and top mixed team based on their records from the day.”

The team joining George are Sadie Tolton at Vice/Third, Emilia Saciuk at Second, Shae Sinclair at Lead and Fifth Emma Tucker.

For the highschool season the girls have been coached by Kim Beaudry, but because Beaudry is the lead official for the tournament, Silver will take over coaching duties for the U-18s.

Speaking as a group the girls said they feel excited to be in a bigger competition after the pandemic.

“It’s good to do it together,” they said. “We’ve had two years of COVID and now we finally get a tournament together. It’s nice to finally be out on the ice with everyone.”

There are four boys teams in a double round-robin tournament playing each other twice before playoffs while six girls teams will play a single round-robin tournament, playing each other once before playoffs, with the top two teams qualifying for nationals.

The event kicks off with the first round of games on Thursday afternoon with the first round of boys’ games then the girls kick off with an evening session after opening ceremonies at 6:30 p.m. The full schedule of games and scores can be found at