Team ‘Toba repping it well

Both Team Manitobas have been representing their province well at this year’s M & M Meat Shops Canadian Juniors Curling Championships.

This news thrills me for two reasons.

a) After knowing Matt Dunstone and Shannon Birchard for a while in the junior curling scene and watching them from when they were just starting to curl competitively, I’d be thrilled to see either (but hopefully both) walk away with the Canadian title.

and

b) If their teams win nationals, they’ll be joining me in Sochi for the 2013 World Junior Curling Championships.

Manitoba has always done well at this event. Even though the last junior mens team from Manitoba to win the title was David Hamblin in 2002, Manitoban curlers like Kyle Doering, Sam Good, Alex Forrest and Kyle Peters have all represented the province well.

For the junior women, look no further than 2008 and 2009 for a notable Manitoban curler name. Kaitlyn Lawes won the Canadian Championships in back-to-back years. That’s an accomplishment too. The last time that happened in junior women’s was 2001 – 2002 when Suzanne Birt (nee Gaudet), won back-to-back titles.

This year Team Manitoba, represented by Shannon Birchard, is seen as one of the favourites to win the national title. Last year Birchard represented Manitoba and made it all the way to the finals before losing to Jocelyn Peterman of Alberta in an unfortunately lopsided game.

First year jitters aside, I believe Shannon and her team are on a good path this year. Obviously nothing will be handed to them (especially at the national level), but Shannon’s proved to be an amazing skip who can keep her poise, especially under pressure.

In a recent round robin match, Birchard defeated another powerhouse in Team Ontario (Jamie Sinclair) 8-3.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in curling though, just because they won by five this time, doesn’t mean the score will be the same if they meet a second time. I’ve played the same team twice and would win by 4 but then lose by 6. I’ve seen teams play each other many times and the results are always different. One game can’t tell us anything about these teams.

In regards to Dunstone and his team, even though the majority of them are at nationals for the first time, they have talent. They’ve watched Birchard make it all the way to the final in her first attempt last year, and there’s no reason they won’t be able to if they keep focused and play the best they can.

I’m disappointed I have to rely on watching line scores online to see how these teams do. But I’ll tell you one thing. Come Saturday and Sunday when the finals will be played, I’ll be watching whoever is in the final on TSN.

In the mean time, the line scores will have to do.

Shannon Birchard is 4-0 in her pool after three days of curling. Dunstone and his team sit at 3-2.

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