The next wave of young up-and-coming curling talent in Sudbury might be a year or two away from hitting the national scene, but early results at provincials are encouraging.
The Northern Ontario Curling Association Junior Men's and Junior Women's championships are currently underway in Kapuskasing and Sault Ste Marie, with plenty of Sudbury flavour present in both events.
Still eligible to compete within the bantam ranks, the Krysta Burns rink from the Idylwylde has won two of their opening three games, with only a late meltdown in their all-Sudbury matchup preventing the team from opening with three straight victories.
Burns, along with Monica Graham, Sara Guy and Laura Masters, kicked things off with a thrilling 9-8 extra-end triumph on Jan. 3 over Jessica Haw of the Stratton Curling Club (Rainy River District).
Then, leading 7-4 after seven ends in their second game, Team Burns were victimized for five points in the final three ends as clubmate Brianne Manson and her rink (Cassandra Rees, Courtney Andrey, Sabrina Frappier) chalked up a 9-7 come-from-behind win.
The Burns quartet overcame the difficult loss, getting back on the winning track on Jan. 4, besting Robin Beaudry of the Idylwylde 9-7.
Beaudry, who is joined at the Soo Curlers Club by her team of Avryl Evans, Robyn Froude and Carolyne Graham, remain in search of their first victory, falling 9-1 to Tirzah Keffer (Port Arthur) and 8-4 to Megan St Amand (Port Arthur).
Team Manson were beaten 6-4 in their opening game by Team St Amand before knocking off Burns and losing to Keffer. The latter remains the class of the field at the moment, looking extremely impressive in posting a 3-0 record with lopsided wins over Beaudry, Jenny Keetch of Port Arthur (10-3) and Manson (9-2).
At the men's event in Kapuskasing, the Tanner Horgan rink are carrying the hopes of the nickel city, as the Idylwylde quartet battle seven other teams from across the north.
Yet another Sudbury-based curler with bantam eligibility remaining, Horgan has teamed with Dakota Allerston, Joe Greco and younger brother Jacob Horgan, earning a split in their opening two games.
Team Horgan picked up a steal in the 10th end, slipping past Matthew Johnson of Atikokan 5-4 on Jan. 3. Close games remain the norm in Kapuskasing as Horgan and company fell to the .500 mark, dropping a 10-7 decision to Kurtis Byrd of Port Arthur.
The northwestern Ontario squad scored three times in the final end, improving their record to 2-0 in the process as every single one of the eight games to date has been decided by three points or less.
Play will continue at both venues through to Jan. 6, with the Northern Ontario champions advancing to the 2013 M&M Meat Shops Canadian Juniors from Jan. 31 to Feb. 10 in Fort McMurray, Alberta.