Ryerson curlers hit the ice in St. Catharines

This version of the article corrects the error in paragraph four that said the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks would not be in attendance. They are at the Brock University Invitational Bonspiel, but not playing Ryerson. 

After months of preparation, Ryerson’s curling teams officially kick off their seasons this weekend, as both the men and women travel to St. Catharines, Ont., for the Brock University Invitational Bonspiel.

Both teams have been competing in league play — including in a league against other post-secondary teams from the Greater Toronto Area — at the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club since late September. But the invitational, the first of two on the OUA curling calendar, will challenge the Rams to get back into the swing of jam-packed tournament play.

“This weekend we’ll be playing three games in a day, so it’s a big test of our endurance and our mental toughness,” Maggie Macintosh, the skip of the women’s team, said. “It’s tough on the brain and the body.”

Both Rams teams have identical schedules for the weekend. Each rink will face off (in order) against the Waterloo Warriors, Trent Excalibur and Western Mustangs on Saturday, and will play the Brock Badgers’ junior varsity team on Sunday. The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks, reigning OUA champions in both men’s and women’s curling, will be in attendance but won’t take on Ryerson. However, the Rams are looking forward to matching up against teams of a similar calibre.

“It’ll be a couple of good challenges for us, to see how we’re performing,” Alex Champ, the vice of the men’s team, said.

“Western usually has a pretty good team, they’re a pretty solid program, and Waterloo, last year they played amazingly at the OUA Championship (losing to Laurier in the final), so we’ll see what they’re bringing to the table this year,” he said.

Although this weekend’s tournament is only a friendly competition, the Rams will almost certainly use it as a measuring stick, with the OUA Championship in Oshawa, Ont., just under a month away.

For Macintosh, the tournament will help her continue to build confidence calling shots for her new teammates this season, lead Tegan Walton and second Audrey Wallbank. Both Walton and Wallbank are left-handed, which Macintosh — as a right-handed curler — said has made it more difficult calling the correct amount of ice for their shots.

“(As left-handed players) they’re delivering their rocks from the other side of the hack, they’re throwing the opposite handle,” Macintosh said. “(The tournament) will be a great chance for our team to get to know each other better … to understand each other’s shots.”

For the men, the tournament will be their first in which Champ, the skip of last year’s team, won’t be calling games. In the last few months, the team has experimented with playing Champ as the vice and moving last season’s vice, Stuart Leslie, into the skip position.

The switch allows Champ to play in the position he is accustomed to, as he is vice on the team he competes with outside Ryerson. It also lets him be closer in proximity to the front-end players, allowing him to relay information to them quicker.

“Alex brings a skip’s perspective to what they’re seeing on the ice … how the rocks are running, how much curl there is on the ice,” Perry Marshall, the head coach of the men’s team, said. “That’s pretty unique (playing as a vice), being able to translate that in real time to the lead and second,” Marshall said.

Marshall is hoping that the increased ice time both Rams teams have seen in the last few months will give them an edge this weekend. “Last year going into (the Brock University Invitational Bonspiel) we had only played one event in Guelph … literally weeks after we formed as a team,” he said. “We’ve got a better sense of who we are now … four-fifths of our men’s team and three-fifths of our women’s team have a year of (OUA) experience now.

“We’ve drawn four really good schools (this weekend) to show where we’re at.”

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