To say that the Ryerson Rams women’s curling teams finished strong at the OUA Curling Championship would be a gross understatement.
After starting the round robin 1-3, the women won their final three games to finish 4-3 and qualify for the playoffs as the fourth seed in Pool A. Combined with the men winning their final four round robin games (but missing out on the playoffs in a tiebreaker), the Rams curling program had gone 7-0 on Saturday and Sunday, giving rise to the “#WinOnlyWeekend” rallying mantra.
Two straight upset wins in the playoffs, first against the 7-0 Brock Badgers in the quarterfinals followed by the 7-1 Carleton Ravens in the semifinals, pushed the Cinderella streak to nine consecutive wins.
The Rams women were just one win away from a historic provincial championship, but the fairy tale finish fell one short of a perfect 10. The Rams were defeated 6-4 by the Laurentian Voyageurs in Monday’s final, giving the Voyageurs their first provincial sporting title since 2003.
Playing without the hammer in the first end, the Rams found themselves chasing the end early after lead Teagan Walton missed a takeout with her second shot. Good hits from second Audrey Wallbank and vice Nicole Titkai allowed the Rams to recover well before two excellent draws behind cover from skip Maggie Macintosh’s first two stones. Voyageurs skip Krysta Burns one-upped Macintosh with a spectacular runback double takeout with her first, followed by a hit-and-stick with her second, to give the Voyageurs a 2-0 lead. Both teams put on a hitting clinic in the second end, and following a takeout from Burns with her second stone, Macintosh hit and rolled out to blank the second end and maintain possession of hammer.
The Rams were finally able to get on the board with hammer in the third end. A brilliant draw to the left side of the house from Titkai’s first stone, followed by a hit-and-roll to the right side of the house with her second, gave the Rams the split of the house they needed to ultimately score their two with hammer and tie the game.
Unlucky breaks in the fourth end by the Rams opened the door for the Voyaguers to take control. A pick on Walton’s first shot essentially gifted the Voyageurs with the end’s first and last shots. With more rocks in play, the Voyageurs were able to draw multiple stones into the four foot circle and forced Titkai into two difficult hit-and-rolls. Titkai made contact on her second, but her rock rolled away from the button to leave an opening for the Voyageurs. Needing to get rid of some rocks, Macintosh’s takeout attempt with her first overcurled and jammed onto a Voyageurs guard. Her second attempt, like Titkai’s second, made contact but didn’t get the required roll towards the button. Burns would send another rock in and score three to take a 5-2 lead into the break.
Macintosh very close with her second shot, hits but can't roll in. Burns hits nicely and gets a massive three points. Rams down 5-2 after 4.
— Michael Norton (@TheRealNort) February 20, 2017
Needing to score more than one in the fifth end to keep pace, the Rams got two more great shots from Titkai, including an outstanding corner freeze at the top of the four foot with her second. The Voyageurs back end of Burns and vice Megan Smith, both of whom had played virtually flawlessly in the first half of the game, continued their brilliant streak. Macintosh made a lovely draw to the right edge of the button, but it was only for a single point.
The Rams needed to avoid giving up a big score in the sixth end and finally caught their lucky break when a double takeout attempt from Smith jammed into backing and allowed Macintosh to draw in and sit three with her first. Burns recovered well, but only enough to get a single point and take a 6-3 lead.
With hammer back in possession for the seventh end, the Rams needed to score at least two points to make up ground. But Titkai, who had been named the OUA’s second-team all-star vice following a magnificent round-robin showing, came up light on two straight draw attempts with her rocks. Macintosh did well to draw to the left edge of the four foot twice in a row, but the Rams only ended up scoring a single. With a two point lead and hammer in the final end, the Voyageurs front end of lead Laura Masters and second Sara Guy made brilliant hits to take out all of Walton and Wallbank’s stones. Burns would seal the deal for the Voyageurs by hitting Macintosh’s first shot out, running the Rams out of rocks and claiming the OUA title by a 6-4 final score.
— Michael Norton (@TheRealNort) February 20, 2017
By making it to the OUA final, both the Rams and Voyageurs qualified for the 2017 U Sports-Curling Canada Canadian University Curling Championships, which take place in Thunder Bay next month. And although the Rams would have liked to have capped off their #WinOnlyWeekend with a tenth straight victory, the team is still thrilled with their second-place finish.
“At the end of the day I think we all had a lot of fun out there,” Macintosh said following the end-of-tournament medal presentations and awards ceremony.
“(We) stayed really cool and calm, and we gave them our best.”
Macintosh, who spent nearly a decade curling competitively on the Ontario Junior Curling Tour, said her play at OUAs might have been the best she’s ever played at a tournament. For somebody who just this fall was unsure whether she would be staying in the game, her story, and the story of the entire Rams women’s team, becomes that much more astounding.
“I always came up short,” Macintosh said of her years on the competitive circuit.
“There was always just so much pressure that I put on myself because I was curling, you know, five times, six times a week. For nearly 10 years… and so I always just choked as a skip.”
For the last two seasons Macintosh has not curled outside of Ryerson’s curling program. Her decision to subtract some on-ice hours has added a clearer head to her seasoned game.
“I think a lot of it is both maturity and time… a lot of our success, or my personal success, was just being collected,” she said.
The Rams curling programs are both in just their second season, and they are already sending a team to a national championship. By going toe-to-toe with some of the best in the province, the Rams have shown they are up to the challenges that will surely be presented to them in Thunder Bay.
“I’ve never been to Thunder Bay in the winter, but apparently they have really good donuts there, so that’s what we’re looking forward to,” Macintosh said.
“And hopefully we’ll have a little more respect both in the athletics department at Ryerson, and acknowledgment as well.”