Isaac Keffer’s junior men’s rink fell just short in its bid for a berth at the NOCA Junior Provincials in North Bay in January.
The rink was tied for first after the round-robin portion of the regional playdowns in Thunder Bay with a 3-2 record, but fell 8-3 to Cody Johnston (Fort William) in a tie-breaker on Sunday.
Keffer’s rink included Joshua Szajewski of Kenora at third and locals Cody Heyens and Ian Grant at second and lead, respectively.
Szajewski was a recent addition to the local rink, with Keffer noting that playing with Szajewski at vice helped to develop his own game.
“We worked together really well—if it was just calling shots or just shooting,” Keffer enthused.
“We learned some of his strategies and skills, as well.
“[We learned] different shots we could do and different ways to play,” he added.
Keffer also was encouraged as two of his wins came over the pair who advanced to the provincials—Johnston and Brennan Wark (Port Arthur).
“It was really cool that we got to beat both of the teams that went on,” he remarked.
The skip said in the games they won, the foursome never took their foot off the gas pedal to let teams back in.
“We just made sure that we never let down our guard and played to our full potential the whole game,” said Keffer.
“When we were up a couple points, we wouldn’t back down and give up.
“We’d keep going as hard as we could.”
The rink opened the weekend on a rough note, falling 9-2 to Tim Focht (Port Arthur) on Friday afternoon.
After blanking the first two ends, the teams traded singles in three and four. Focht then put up a pair in the fifth while Keffer responded with a single in the sixth.
But Focht blew the game open with five in the seventh, then topped it off with a steal of one in the eighth.
Keffer responded in the late draw, though, bouncing back with a 9-4 win over Chris Lock (Sioux Lookout).
Keffer opened with a pair in the first but Lock charged ahead with three in the second.
The local rink then posted threes of their own in the third and fourth ends, and stole one more in the fifth to go up 9-3.
Lock ended the game with a single in the sixth.
Keffer recorded his second-straight blowout in the next match, trouncing Wark 7-1.
Keffer notched singles in the first and second before stealing two more in the third. After the fourth was blanked, the locals stole singles in the fifth and sixth to lead 6-0.
Wark got on the board with one in the seventh, but Keffer wrapped it up with one in the eighth.
In their fourth match, the local rink fell to 2-2 with a 6-2 loss to Jordan Potter (Port Arthur).
The game was a defensive struggle, with Keffer singles in the first and fifth ends, as well as a Potter single in the third, the only scoring in the early going.
But Potter heated up late, notching a pair in the seventh and then three in the eighth to seal it.
In their final match of the round-robin, Keffer forced a four-way tie for first by dumping Johnston 9-4.
After a Keffer single in the first, Johnston responded with one in each the second and third. Keffer regained the lead, going up 3-2 with two in the fourth, but Johnston knotted it in the fifth.
Keffer surged out with two in each of the sixth and seventh ends to go up 7-3.
Although Johnston came back with one in the eighth, Keffer concluded it with another deuce in the ninth.
Johnston got his revenge in the tiebreaker, however.
It was quiet early as a Johnston single was complemented by Keffer singles in the second and fourth.
Johnston blew up from then on, tallying a pair in both the fifth and sixth before upping the ante with three in the seventh.
Keffer’s eighth-end single rounded out the scoring.