Three University of Saskatchewan students are competing for the national title in a tournament being held in Prince Albert from Jan. 19 to 27. With 75 per cent of the Saskatchewan provincial curling team being students, the U of S is well represented at this event.
The tournament in question is the 2019 New Holland Canadian Junior Championships, an event that hosts a team from each province and territory for a week of curling. The team that wins this championship will go on to represent Canada in the world juniors. Team Saskatchewan is made up of students Matthieu Taillon, Joshua Mattern and Rylan Kleiter as well as Trevor Johnson.
The team has a long history together according to Kleiter, a third-year accounting major in the Edwards School of Business, who explains the story behind how they got into curling in the seventh grade.
“My dad’s a competitive curler, and he brought me out to try curling, and he said, ‘Bring three of your buddies,’” Kleiter said. “So I brought some friends out — we were best friends off the ice before curling — and then, they really liked the game, and we all wanted to practice and get better at it.”
Throughout the years, the team has made some outstanding achievements in the curling world. Taillon mentions some of these milestones.
“This is our third under 21 junior provincial title in a row. We previously won three U18 provincials, too, as well as a high school provincial championship,” Taillon said. “We recently competed in a grand slam event — so kind of like a pro tournament. We’re upper echelon of junior teams, essentially — and getting up there with the men’s teams, too.”
With a lot of experience under their collective belts, the team is rightfully confident about their performance at the junior championships this year. Having previously competed at this level, Kleiter speaks to how the team feels about coming back to the championship tournament after having competed at the higher levels of curling.
“We’re feeling way more confident than our past two years there. We’ve played against lots of the top men’s teams in the province — and even the world — to prepare us for this,” Kleiter said.
Confidence is something that the team will need as they compete against the country’s best, and Kleiter explains that their strategy is to play to their strengths by playing a messier game of curling.
“We like to put a lot of rocks in play and play really aggressive with putting them in the house versus some teams like to hit a lot and just get rid of everything. Our goal is going to be to play a bit messier of a game because that’s our strong point,” Kleiter said.
The team is dedicated to improving their game by practicing at least twice a week on top of any competition they may have, but Kleiter states that they also try to enjoy their time curling.
“We like to keep it light on the ice and have lots of fun out there,” Kleiter said. “We show off our fun, too. We have crazy pants that we wear all the time, and we’ve kept that throughout all of our years together.”
Team Saskatchewan will be competing in the national junior championships until Jan. 27. You can follow their competition on curling.ca.
Jack Thompson / Sports & Health Editor
Photo: Kel Faber / Supplied