The Muskies and Rainy River Owls are gearing up to showcase their skills at the OFSAA boys’ and girls’ curling championships set for March 20-24 at the Fort Frances Curling Club.
It’s the first time since 1981 that Fort Frances has been selected to host the all-Ontarios in curling.
Both Muskie squads earned byes into the tournament as the host teams.
The Muskie boys, skipped by Chris Silver, are coming into the tournament on the heels of a “golden” performance at the NWOSSAA finals held here back on March 4-5, where they went a perfect 4-0 en route to capturing the title.
Jason Bazylewski, Daniel Vandenbrand, Owen Riches, and Ben Olson make up the rest of the team.
“The main focus at practice [has been] working on communication and weight control, consistently throwing the weight the skip is asking for, and scenario-based situations,” said coach Ron Silver, who also is the president of the local curling club.
“[For example,] being down by one with hammer or without hammer,” he noted.
“For the team, I anticipate a high seeding as Chris, Daniel, and Jason are the 2016 OFSAA silver-medalists [while] Chris and Daniel are the reigning provincial junior [U21] silver-medalists and also had a near-perfect record as this year’s Muskie team,” Silver lauded.
“The field will have some very good teams but with our experience, the boys will fare well.
“Even though Fort Frances received a hosting bye, the boys earned the right to compete in OFSAA, regardless of the location,” he stressed.
“Our first goal is to enjoy the event, something only a few curlers get to participate in, and second is to make the playoffs and third is to bring home gold,” Silver added.
He also noted that, to the best of his knowledge, “all teams that qualified will be here–18 boys’ teams and 18 girls’ teams.”
As well, Silver believes being able to host the all-Ontarios will reap nothing but good things for the local curling club and the community.
“To be able to showcase our club and community to the rest of the province is fantastic,” he enthused.
“We have one of the finest curling clubs in all of the province, a very hospitable and generous community–as proven by all of the support our OFSAA [organizing] committee has received through sponsorships and volunteers,” Silver noted.
“The economic impact for the community will be significant as 250-plus athletes and coaches, not to mention parents and spectators, descend upon our town, staying in hotels, eating in restaurants, and shopping at our stores.
“The club will gain notoriety from increased exposure,” Silver added. “And, hopefully, building interest in the sport and enticing new members.
“The club has seen some infrastructure improvements [that were] needed to enhance the OFSAA experience for both the athletes and spectators.”
The Muskie girls, skipped by Tory Beaudry and coached by her mom, Kim, claimed the silver medal at NWOSSAA with a 4-1 record.
Ashley Payne, Katrina Slomke, Andrea Schram, and Lauren Penney comprise the rest of the Muskie squad.
Fort High’s only defeat came at the hands of Mackenzie Jolicouer and the Owls, who booked their ticket to OFSAA after going 5-0 record to earn NWOSSAA gold.
The rest of the Owls’ contingent features Aynsley Williams, Madison Williams, Lynnelle Westover, and Cassidy Teeple.
Both these rinks competed at the U18 provincials that were held last Wednesday through Sunday in New Liskeard.
Jolicouer and Beaudry both compiled 3-4 records there, with both losing their respective tie-breaker matches and failing to advance to the final.
“[We want] to go out and curl well, and see where that takes us,” Kim Beaudry said about her expectations at OFSAA.
“We curled against some of the OFSAA competition at the U18 provincials,” she noted.
“Any opportunity for competitive games is great and you learn at each event.”
Meanwhile, preparations for OFSAA are going well, said organizing committee member Christine Denby.
“So much of our planning is coming together this week,” she remarked.
“Sponsors are in place, with some still coming in, [and] we are grateful for all the support we have received.
“Our website is up and running, highlighting not only our sponsors but information for our teams and spectators,” she noted.
“The rink is ready with new monitors to view the action, both upstairs and downstairs.”
Denby also said bleachers are being set up this weekend for spectators while welcome bags for the athletes are being put together this week as final plans for the banquet come together.
In an effort to help create more buzz for the upcoming all-Ontarios, organizers also have put together a contest entitled “Help us paint the ‘house’ black and gold.”
Residents are being urged to decorate their homes or businesses in Muskie colours.
Judges for the contest will be OFSAA curlers from across Ontario, with the winners to be announced March 24 (the final day of the tournament).
“We definitely want to create a buzz, not only for our Muskie athletes but welcome the rest of the 36 teams coming to Fort Frances to compete,” Denby explained.
“This isn’t just Muskie pride but Fort Frances pride, too!”
Denby also noted registrations for the contest slowly are coming in.
“The contest was about bringing awareness of the event to the community, as well, and I think lots of them will come in by the end of the week,” she remarked.
“Some may not even register but just decorate, which will be more than fine, too.”
Denby said the prizes being awarded will be a surprise, and that “we thought the kids would have fun exploring our community and would make the perfect judges.”