There’s little doubt that Team Tardi put it on the line Sunday when it mattered most.
The foursome who call both Royal City and Langley curling clubs their home base emerged as champions, successfully defending their title with a win Sunday at the B.C. junior men’s curling championship in New Westminster.
Team Tardi played it like a high-stakes gambler, topping Team Habkirk 11-5 to earn a ticket to the Canadian Junior championships, Jan. 21 to 29 in Esquimalt.
Skipped by Tyler Tardi, the quartet shook off a pair of round-robin losses to find a comfort zone in the playoffs, where they closed it out with a pair of four-point ends against Victoria’s Habkirk to secure the team’s second straight B.C. crown.
“Our gameplan was just to keep it clean,” said Tardi. “It’s a simple game, so it’s best to keep your nerves down and make your shots.”
That didn’t mean he played it safe. With Habkirk looking to add to his 1-0 lead in the second, Tardi weighed the risks of a triple-takeout, and calmly played it – causing his coach to feel a tad nervous.
“We had the last shot but I thought we’d do well to score one,” remarked coach and father Paul Tardi. “(Tyler) sees a lot of complicated shots and can make them. This time he tripled out Habkirk and it left us with four. It completely changed the game and its unusual to have a turning point in the second end but it kind of turned out that way.”
While Habkirk countered with two in the third to trail 4-3, Tardi replied with another four-spot, going ahead 8-3 in the fourth, effectively locking it down.
The teams traded points the rest of the way.
Third Sterling Middleton, a Burnaby resident and Douglas College student, said the six-day competition was a grind at times, but the team managed to gain momentum when it really counted.
“We were ready to go and fired up,” said Middleton, 18. “There was a lot of pressure but we were excited to play (in the final), especially for our lead (Nicholas Meister), who’s in his last year of junior (eligibility). We wanted to win it for him.”
The team, which also includes second Jordan Tardi, advanced to the final by besting fellow Royal City squad Team McCrady in the first-versus-second qualifier by a 7-5 margin.
In that match-up, the Tardi rink erased a 5-3 deficit with back-to-back deuces in the eighth and ninth ends, locking up a berth in the final.
“It was a good but difficult win,” noted Middleton. “I felt like (McCrady) had momentum for most of the game, but he missed a shot in the eighth and we got two off it, and in the ninth he went heavy on a shot that again led to two.”
Middleton, in his second year with the team and third playing alongside his skip, said that while they faced some hurdles along the way, the end result was perfect.
“Sure, it would have been nice to go undefeated but I think the times we struggled we learned from them.”
Their losses came in the round-robin, after starting the championships 3-0. On the third day’s early draw against McCrady, Tardi held a 6-5 lead after eight ends but their Royal City counterpart put up points in the ninth and 10th ends to win it 7-6.
A day later, again in the first draw of the day, Team Kiss – another of the Royal City’s five teams in competition at the men’s championships – came away with a 7-5 decision.
“It was one of those missteps – we curled a good game against McCrady (in round robin) at least statistically but lost on a few mistakes. Another early game (against Kiss) the next day and we just struggled. We didn’t have our best stuff,” said Middleton.
The McCrady rink, which includes third Brayden Carpenter, second Zac Curtis and lead Jacob Umbach, put on a strong display during the round robin, finishing first with a 6-1 record. Their lone loss to that point was to another Royal City crew, the Hayato Sato rink, 4-3 in 11 ends.
After falling to Tardi in the final qualifier, McCrady scrambled against Habkirk, deadlocked at three until the 10th end when the Victoria rink eked out the win.
Coach Curt Bogren said while it was a disappointing ending, the team were right in contention until the end.
"It was a pretty good run, we had a very strong round robin," said Bogren. "We were very close in both playoff games and the other coaches remarked how close all the games were... It really came down to just a missed shot here and a great shot there."
McCrady was aiming to advance to the B.C. final for a second straight year, having lost to Tardi in 2016. Beating the eventual champions 7-6 in the round robin was a big boost for the foursome's confidence, Bogren noted.
"For me, the highlight was just watching the boys play so well against such tough competition," he said. "They really got a lot of confidence when they beat Tardi (in Draw 6)."
They also handled Habkirk in the second draw with the 10th and decisive end seeing McCrady counting four for a 7-4 come-from-behind victory.
The Sato rink, meanwhile, showed well as the youngest team in competition, posting a 4-3 record in the round robin, before bowing out in the quarterfinals.
On the junior women’s side, Kamloops’ Corryn Brown kept her odd-year winning streak going by capturing a third title, beating Royal City-Delta Thistle curling clubs’ Sarah Daniels team 7-4 on Sunday.
Brown, the junior champion in 2013 and ’15, scored four in the fifth end to erase a 2-1 deficit en route to a perfect record at the provincial tournament.
The Brown rink, which includes third Marika van Osch, lead Samantha Fisher and former Daniels’ team member Dezaray Hawes of Anmore at second, now advances to the nationals later this month in Victoria.
The Daniels rink features third Sarah Loken, second Megan Daniels and lead Sydney Brilz. They entered the playoffs after posting a 4-3 record, and battled Brown hard in the quarterfinal before falling 7-6 over 11 ends.
They bounced back for another thriller, this time knocking off the Connell rink of Prince George 8-7, again in 11 ends.