New-look ju­niors aim for medals once again

The Sudbury Star - - SPORTS - RANDY PAS­CAL

game for the full game and Frap­pier’s go­ing to play on Fri­day night for the full game. We’re young in the net, but in say­ing that, they’re bat­tling, and that’s all we want. With (goal­tend­ing coach) Alain Vali­quette here, I leave a lot of it up to him, talking to the goalies and teach­ing with them, but as long as they can come every night and give us an op­por­tu­nity to win a hockey game, that’s all I ask.”

That’s what Frap­pier in­tends to do. Sud­bury’s sixth-round pick in the 2017 OHL Pri­or­ity Se­lec­tion, the 17-year-old from Ne­pean, Ont. spent last sea­son with the Ne­pean Raiders of the Cen­tral Canada Hockey League and, af­ter a solid show­ing in train­ing camp, feels he’s ad­just­ing well to ma­jor ju­nior. See | B2 coaches’ re­view. It’s a very short time­line but nec­es­sar­ily so. Any length­en­ing of con­fir­ma­tion dead­lines would serve to shorten an al­ready short sea­son, a fact that all those in­volved fully ap­pre­ci­ate. The goal of course is to be as or­ga­nized as pos­si­ble, while still host­ing enough games to make the ex­pe­ri­ence ed­u­ca­tional and en­joy­able for all those con­cerned.

See |B2

That time of year has ar­rived where the elite of the curl­ing world anx­iously step on to the ice for the first time, with early sea­son bon­spiels pro­vid­ing a help­ful barom­e­ter of off-sea­son progress. This lit­mus test be­comes even more crit­i­cal when the core ros­ter of a team has un­der­gone a ma­jor over­haul.

With both Krysta Burns and Laura Mas­ters aging out from the U21 ranks this fall, the tan­dem of Me­gan Smith and Sara Guy had no choice but to wel­come a new pair of team­mates if they wished to tar­get a sea­son that comes any­where close to the very mem­o­rable 201617 cam­paign they en­joyed.

Keep in mind that the quar­ter of Burns, Smith, Guy and Mas­ters not only claimed bronze at the Cana­dian Ju­nior Curl­ing Cham­pi­onships in Vic­to­ria, but ac­cen­tu­ated their run of suc­cess with a first ever CIS/U Sports crown in Thun­der Bay, as the squad re­mained in­tact while rep­re­sent­ing the Lau­ren­tian Voyageurs in ac­tion.

Given that these open­ings were un­doubt­edly coveted in the lo­cal ranks, it came as very lit­tle sur­prise that the re­vamped Team Smith fea­tures a pair of ad­di­tions with ul­tra-im­pres­sive re­sumes in the form of Kira Brun­ton and Kate Sherry. The new­com­ers were part of the Sud­bury Curl­ing Club rink that claimed gold at the in­au­gu­ral Cana­dian U18 Curl­ing Cham­pi­onships last April in Monc­ton.

While there will be much change with the quasi-de­fend­ing NOCA ju­nior cham­pi­ons, there is some sta­bil­ity at the helm, as coach Rod­ney Guy was asked to re­turn for an­other year.

“I kind of thought, at this point, that I would be kind of re­tired,” he said with a laugh, catch­ing up this week on the heels of his team’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Kitch­en­erWater­loo Royal Slam.

De­spite work­ing along­side one half of his team for a decade or more, Guy ac­knowl­edged that the new dy­nam­ics add a twist of their own to the mix.

“It’s tough – I’m just as ner­vous as they are,” he said. “Through the years, with Krysta, I knew how to pre­pare for the sea­son, be­cause I knew those kids so well. With Kira and Kate, I have to be a lit­tle more struc­tured.”

“Strat­egy-wise, we’re a very sim­i­lar team,” Guy added. “Those kids are way ahead of their time.”

One added bonus this time around comes cour­tesy of the team’s ac­cep­tance into the Next Gen­er­a­tion pro­gram, al­low­ing the lo­cal crew to work hand in hand with men­tor coach Mau­rice Wil­son. Need­less to say, the well­re­spected Level 3 coach who has worked with count­less provin­cia­land na­tional-cal­i­bre rinks pro­vides a won­der­ful sound­ing board for Guy and his four­some.

More than any­thing else, there is an aware­ness of the sub­tle dif­fer­ences that is key.

“I’ve spent hours writ­ing out notes, lit­tle things like the times they want to hear in the hack,” ex­plained Guy. “Kira and Kate are used to hog to hog times, where we used to do split times – lit­tle things like that. But the first game they went out there, you would have thought they have played to­gether for years.”

The Sud­bury reps posted a round robin record of 3-2, earn­ing a berth in the quar­ter-fi­nal be­fore drop­ping a 7-4 de­ci­sion to Marie-Elaine Lit­tle from Ot­tawa.

“I was im­pressed,” said Guy. “Clearly, ex­pe­ri­ence comes into play, es­pe­cially with play­ers tak­ing on dif­fer­ent roles – Kate go­ing from vice to lead, Kira step­ping down to vice, al­low­ing Me­gan to call the game, Me­gan step­ping back and al­low­ing Kira to throw last rocks. Sara is the only one who stays in po­si­tion, but it’s a dif­fer­ent team for her, too.” See | B2

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