It was a team that was truly representative of the entire province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
It came pretty close to being a team representing the entire country.
The St. John’s-based rink of skip Daniel Bruce, third Ryan McNeil Lamswood, second Joel Krats and lead Nathan King made it to Sunday’s final of the New Holland Canadian junior men’s curling championship in Langley, B.C., only to lose 8-6 to a Manitoba entry skipped by Jacques Gauthier.
It was the first time since 2004, when Matthew Blandford’s St. John’s foursome lost to New Brunswick in the final, that a N.L. rink has gone this far in the event. Sunday’s result leaves the 2001 rink skipped by Brad Gushue, which claimed the Canadian and world titles that year, as the only Newfoundland rink with a national junior men’s title.
The Bruce-skipped rink plays out of the Re/Max Centre in St. John’s, where three of the team’s members attend Memorial University. Krats, 18 goes to Mount Pearl Senior High School.
But the team is rooted far away from the metro area.
McNeil Lamswood, who was playing in his fifth national junior men’s event, is from Stephenville ,while Bruce and King are from Corner Brook, Krats is a native of Labrador City, who has curled with under-18 teams out Gander when he wasn’t able to put together a rink in his hometown.
Bruce and Co. went 8-2 in preliminary- and championship-pool play during the week in Langley, earning them the second seed heading into the three-team medal round.
At 9-1, Gauthier and the Manitobans earned a bye directly to the final, leaving the N.L. team to face Saskatchewan in a Saturday semifinal. In that one, Bruce and his teammates cracked off a big score of five in eighth end to break what had been a 4-4 tie and went on to win 9-8.
Against Saskatchewan, as it had in many of its games during the week, the Bruce rink fell behind in the first half of the game, but remained, as described by Dennis Bruce — the team’s coach and skip’s father — “loosey-goosey” as they kept their composure and mounted comebacks.
They also trailed in Sunday’s final — Manitoba was up 4-0 through four ends — but while the Newfoundland rink kept counter-punching, it couldn’t knock out the opposition.
There was no comeback this time.
Bruce made a couple of outstanding shots in the seventh end to score two points, cutting Manitoba’s lead to 6-4 ,and Newfoundland looked to be in decent opposition to steal another point in the eighth, but Gauthier — the son of two-time Canadian women’s champion and TSN curling commentator Cathy Gauthier — delivered a solid double to score two in the end.
Bruce came up with two points in the ninth, but Manitoba ran the N.L. team out of rocks in the 10th for the victory.
It means Gauthier and his teammates will represent Canada at the 2020 world junior championships in Russia.
Manitoba also captured the 2020 Canadian junior women’s title. That competition was also held in Langley, this past week, where another St. John’s-based rink, skipped by Corner Brook native Mackenzie Mitchelll, and including Katie Follett, Sarah Chaytor and Claire Hartlen, made it to the championship pool, or second stage, but finished with 4-6 record.
If they hadn’t been provincial junior champions, the Bruce rink probably would have entered the Tankard provincial men’s competition being played this week in St. John’s.
But with the Tankard beginning Tuesday, and the team having to travel all the way across the country to return home, the window was too tight.
Still, Bruce, McNeil Lamswood and King will once again be playing with Greg Blyde’s Memorial Sea-Hawks team, which will be looking to defend its Atlantic universities title and get back to the national U Sport championship, where it won a silver medal last year.
Twitter; @ telybrendan