There is something of a “changing of the guard” within the high school curling ranks.
While the graduation of St Benedict skip Chloe Gordon and the bulk of her four-time SDSSAA championship team left a void on the girls' side of the draw, the reality with the boys is that there hasn't been a dominant team in quite a few years, perhaps dating back to the Evan Lilly rink that captured provincial gold for Lockerby in 2007.
The good news is that there is a wave of outstanding young curling talent just hitting the scene, with the boys draw, in particular, sure to make things interesting come late February and early March.
With the young ladies, the “team in waiting” at Marymount Academy appears poised to follow directly in the footsteps of Gordon and company.
Like Gordon, Regals' skip Krysta Burns enjoys the benefit of being surrounded by very familiar faces, whether she is curling for Marymount or representing the Idylwylde within the bantam or junior ranks as well.
Burns teamed with both Sara Guy and Monica Graham in leading the Regals to a 5-0 start in league play, also qualifying for junior provincials as the top seed from their region.
“We expected to make the top three, to make it to provincials — that was our goal,” said Burns after a recent high school win over Lasalle. 'To go undefeated was far beyond our expectations.
“Nobody ever got down on themselves, and nobody ever brought the team down. We all stayed really upbeat.”
Marymount remains the only unbeaten team with the SDSSAA girls' standings, with Lo-Ellen and St Charles just back with one loss apiece. On the boys side, not a single team has yet to taste defeat, with the likes of Lively, Lockerby, Lo-Ellen and Notre-Dame all jumbled in together near the top of the heap.
The youngest member of his team, Grade 10 skip Liam Brunton, is nevertheless entrusted with the task of guiding his foursome, at least partially due to an 11-year history the young student-athlete has maintained in the sport of curling.
The Lo-Ellen skip is joined by vice Kane Fraser, second Nicholas Mercier and lead Xavier Wong. All four lads also curl regularly within the club scene, with Fraser and Mercier teammates on the same bantam rink.
Like most who split time between their club and high school teams, Brunton sees the SDSSAA ranks as providing a wonderful learning ground in a less-stressful environment.
“I work on my shots — whatever I miss or am doing wrong, I try and fix it in high school,” said Brunton after the Knights knocked the Lively Hawks from the ranks of the undefeated with a convincing 8-2 win.
“I try and improve my shooting percentage.”
Despite being involved in a sport that he was first introduced to by his father, longtime youth curling organizer Frank Brunton, for more than a decade, Liam continues to work on the shortcomings of his game.
“I always tend to dump my out-turn hits,” he said. “Well, not always, but I tend to miss them more than my other shots. I tend to give the rock a bit of a start, so it curls too early and tends to over-curl.”
The single-day city championships, slated for Feb. 13, will make for some interesting curling. A quick glance at the boys standings shows Lively and Lockerby deadlocked at 5-1, with Lo-Ellen (4-2) and Notre-Dame (3-1-1) not far behind.