This could be the year that two Kings County curlers bring home gold medals from the Canadian senior championships.
Jill Alcoe-Holland and Andrea Saulnier, both Coldbrook residents who curl out of Kentville and Berwick, will once again be representing the province at the Canadian Senior Curling Championships this year. The Glooscap Curling Club members will be joined by teammates Marg Cutcliffe of Fall River and Nancy McConnery of Bridgewater.
The team recently captured the senior women’s provincials, defeating the Colleen Jones team 4-3 in the final and earning the right to represent Nova Scotia at the senior nationals. This year, the competition is being held at a new, state-of-the-art, eight-sheet curling facility in Chilliwack, British Columbia, from March 22 to 28.
The team lost only one game in its first six during the round-robin play at provincials, to the Jones team. Cutcliffe, McConnery, Alcoe-Holland and Saulnier recovered, defeating Jones and her team twice en route to the provincial title.
This will be the third year in a row that lead Saulnier, second Alcoe-Holland and third Cutcliffe compete at the nationals. They are being joined this year by a new skip, McConnery.
Last year, with skip Mary Mattatall, the team brought home silver medals, having lost in the finals to Saskatchewan in an extra end. Mattatall is currently taking a year off.
Alcoe-Holland said the competition is strong. Earning the right to represent the province at nationals is an honour but it isn’t an easy feat to duplicate. No other women’s team has done it three years in a row and they hope to play well.
“The field is so strong in Nova Scotia that you’re either going to win your games by one or two or lose them by that,” Alcoe-Holland said.
She pointed out that the more times you compete at nationals, the more familiar you become with the ice conditions. Arena ice is much different than the club ice that they’re used to playing on. She said it’s much faster and you “have to get used to throwing rocks with extra handle.”
Alcoe-Holland said one reason why she and Saulnier played out of Berwick this year is because the facility is new, has new rocks and the ice speed is faster.
Saulnier said she loves everything about the sport of curling and is excited to be returning to the senior nationals, with the hope of bringing home gold this year. She knows several of the other competitors from past trips to the Canadian championships and looks forward to touching base with curling friends and acquaintances from across the country.
Saulnier said she golfs in the summer and curls in the winter and she finds that both involve a great deal of strategy. The two are also similar in the sense that you have to be able to perform consistently and reproduce the same shots. This is one reason why the difference between club and arena ice conditions adds a hint of unpredictability to preparing for nationals.
“We are not privy to having arena ice here very often and out west it seems to be more common, they have facilities, so they’re more used to it,” Saulnier said. “It’s very different and you have to have more rotation on your rocks in order to not lose them.”
She said it was at the Scotties two years ago when they noticed this perhaps more than at any other time, so they’ve trained over the past couple of years while keeping in mind the possibility of getting back onto arena ice.
Saulnier said they curl on the Berwick ice on Wednesdays and the Glooscap ice on Thursdays so that they’re constantly adapting to changing surfaces.
Along with different teammates, this will be the sixth time that Saulnier has competed at nationals.