Both the women’s and men’s Ryerson curling teams rode strong second-day performances this weekend at the McMaster University Invitational Bonspiel to finish with respectable 2-2 records. They got off to a slow start, failing to capitalize on last shot advantages, but rebounded to take away some positives going into the season.
The women’s team began their weekend against a McMaster Marauders team that fared similar to the Rams at last year’s OUA Championship (the Rams finished 3-4 in one pool, the Marauders 2-4 in the other in 2016). The Rams started the game strong on the back of some excellent shot-making from skip Maggie Macintosh. Macintosh struggled with her draw weight at last weekend’s Brock University Invitational Bonspiel, but two excellent draws to the four foot got her team off to an early 2-1 lead.
After being forced to blank the third and fourth ends to retain the hammer, the Marauders’ patience paid off in the fifth. A heavy draw attempt from Macintosh gave McMaster an open draw for two, and Marauders skip Alexandria Nunes made no mistake.
Arguably the game’s best player, Nunes was especially brilliant in the final two ends. While Macintosh was unable to get past the Marauders guard stones, Nunes was able to get her draws well behind cover. She then put up additional guards that forced the Rams into more difficult shots. The Marauders stole two points in the sixth end and another point in the seventh, forcing the Rams to concede a 6-2 final.
The Rams put in a stronger team effort in their final game of the weekend against the Guelph Gryphons senior team. On the heels of a win against the Guelph junior team earlier in the day, the Rams began the game strong, forcing the Gryphons to just a single point with hammer in the first end.
After the Rams stole two points in the sixth end to take a 4-3 lead, the Rams relied on four brilliant hits (two each from Macintosh and second Audrey Wallbank) to take control of their second consecutive end without the hammer. The Rams would steal another two points that end and run Guelph out of rocks in the eighth end to get a 6-3 victory and finish the weekend with an even record.
After starting the weekend with a 5-3 win against Guelph, the men’s team struggled against a very strong Brock Badgers team that finished third at last year’s OUA Championship. The Rams fell behind early when the final stone of the first end, an attempted draw for one point thrown by skip Stuart Leslie, picked to allow the Badgers to steal two. After getting a single point with the hammer in the second end, the Rams gave up a big three points to the Badgers in the third end.
The Badgers — who have a reputation as a very talented hitting team — had little trouble preserving their lead in the second half of the game. Throwing big takeout weight whenever possible, the Badgers minimized the number of rocks in play and looked dominant in a 7-2 win.
In their first game on Sunday, the Rams started without the hammer but did well to limit the number of rocks in play, forcing the McMaster Marauders to blank the first two ends. After McMaster scored a single point in the third end, the Rams were set up brilliantly to score a potential four with hammer in the fourth end. But with his final shot of the end, Marauders skip Peter Sinclair used a Rams stone sitting on the outside edge of the house to play a spectacular hit-and-roll to sit (and ultimately steal) one. After giving up another steal of one in the fifth end, the Rams made up some ground, scoring one in the sixth end and stealing another in the seventh. It wasn’t enough, though, as they conceded the 3-2 loss late in the eighth end.
It wasn’t quite as jaw-dropping as a similar shot Waterloo Warriors skip John Willsey made against the Rams last weekend to score three. But Sinclair’s fourth-end shot reinforced a point the Rams will have to buckle down on – that an end can be flipped on its head with a single stone.
“You’re gonna have a few shots like that made against you all year and now hopefully we have those out of the way now,” Leslie said.
“It’ll just make us more aware that every rock can be used and hopefully (we) batten down the hatches at OUAs,” he said.
It was the final warm-up tournament before February’s OUA Championship. The Rams will continue practicing and competing at the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club in preparation for their last tournament of the season, the OUA Championship. The Championship will take place February 16-20 in Oshawa.
Game 1, vs. Guelph: 5-3 Win
Game 2, vs. Brock: 7-2 Loss
Game 3, vs. McMaster: 3-2 Loss
Game 4, vs. Guelph: 7-2 Win
Game 1, vs. McMaster: 6-2 Loss
Game 2, vs. U of T: 7-2 Loss
Game 3, vs. Guelph (junior team): 7-6 Win
Game 4, vs. Guelph (senior team): 6-3 Win