Even when all of the other winter sports were finished and packed up until the new year, the Brock curling program was still hard at work. After a successful season where both the men and women medaled at the OUA championships, they headed East to battle it out for U Sports gold.
The Championships took place over five days in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Ultimately, the men’s team would fall short of their playoff dreams, finishing seventh in round robin play, behind fellow OUA team, the Western Mustangs. The competition was tremendous, and for the young team, it was ultimately insurmountable.
“I think they feel like they left a lot out there,” said head coach, Murray Etherington. “But they also feel like ‘okay, this was our first taste of it as a team, first time getting there as a team’ and other than our all-star lead, Doug, who graduates, they all have two more years to go as a team.”
Etherington expects the team to grow, and learn how to work with one another over the next two years.
“So, I think that while that was disappointing, they recognized that this was their first time at that level and that going forward they could get stronger.”
Many of the players from other universities are former and current members of U-21, international teams. Brock finished round robin play with a 2-5 record.
The women made it to the playoffs in the third seed with a 5-2 record. They defeated Queens in the semi-finals. The winner would move on to the gold medal game. Brock emerged victorious but they were pure class on the ice.
“They were excited but it was one of those quiet excitements. We’ve been to a few bronze medal games but we finally won the semi-final to get into the gold medal game.” With that win, Brock was guaranteed at least a silver medal but they weren’t celebrating that just yet, “They still realized that they still had one more game and had to refocus,” said Etherington.
Fifth-year senior Terri Weeks led the team into the gold medal matchup against Laurentian, yet another OUA team. Ultimately, the women would lose out on the gold but they knew going in that Laurentian was going to be a hard team to top. The women’s pool was strong, as with the men’s pool, many of the teams were Canadian world champions.
“We had a good game plan, we just had those couple of misses and they scored three and that was the difference.”
The Voyageurs ultimately defeated the Badgers 7-5.
All three teams who had qualified for the women’s championship at the OUAs earned themselves a spot in the playoffs. The University of Dalhousie, from Nova Scotia was the only team that didn’t hail from Ontario.
“It just shows how hard it is to get out of Ontario, and obviously this is no disrespect to anybody else, but some of the other regions don’t have that tough a time getting out of their region,” said Etherington.
Brock was fortunate to have historically been able to send both their men’s and women’s team to the U Sports championships. “Other universities might [only] have a really strong women’s team or a really strong men’s team. We seem to be pretty strong on both sides of our program.”
The team makes an effort to set goals for every level of competition. Once they arrived at U Sports, the goal was to make the playoffs. Once the women made the playoffs the goal became to win the semi-final game, “When we won the semi-final we set the goal that ‘okay the gold’s within our grasp. Let’s play like we’ve been playing and win this’” said Etherington.
The final goal would not be achieved by the women this year as they went home with the silver medal, “It’s a disappointment, we would love to have that banner here, but when you look at a team that basically had two new people on it, three if you consider Laura [Henderson] our fifth, to get to the gold medal game is pretty special,” said Etherington.
Doug Thomson and Weeks were both named first team All-Canadians and will be graduating this year; Weeks in particular will be leaving a large hole in the women’s program as the oldest member of the team, and also the team’s skip. Etherington isn’t worried however, the Badgers have a class of recruits coming in to the system that are up to the task. “Terri’s role is going to be really tough to fill, we’re going to have to find someone who can step up to skip the team, and it might take a couple years to get to where Terri was but I’m confident we have people in our system.”
Both curling teams were relatively young this year, and they’ll likely be relatively young again next year.
“Our goal will always be to medal at OUAs and once we get into the [U Sports] playoffs we set the goal that we want to win,” said Etherington. “The goal is to get these teams to U Sports and as much as it could be considered a good season, I don’t think we can consider it a successful season [if we don’t achieve that goal]. The goal is to get there and keep representing Brock at U Sports.”