BURLINGTON, Ont. - The top university curlers from across the province will converge on the Oshawa Golf & Curling Club Thursday for the 2017 Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Curling Championships, hosted by the UOIT Ridgebacks.
The top three men's and women's teams will qualify for the upcoming 2017 U SPORTS-Curling Canada University Championships, hosted by the Lakehead Thunderwolves, from March 18-22 at the Fort William Curling Club.
"We are very excited to welcome the top university curlers to the Oshawa Golf and Curling Club," said Scott Barker, UOIT manager of intercollegiate athletics. "This is a date every curler has marked on their calendar at the start of the academic year and we're hoping to provide them with a memorable championship weekend here in Oshawa."
Tickets for the OUA championship are available at the following rates: $10 for a day pass or $25 for an event pass (valid for all five days)
The Laurier Golden Hawks enter the tournament as both the defending men's and women's champions. The Laurier ladies have won the OUA banner in each of the past three seasons, while the men have hoisted the OUAA Curling Trophy twice in as many years.
On the women's side, Golden Hawks skip Chelsea Brandwood (Beamsville, Ont.) and third Brenda Holloway (Mississauga, Ont.), both OUA first-team all-stars last year, along with 2016 alternate Riley Sandham (St. Catharines, Ont.) return for the purple and gold as they look to claim the OUA banner for the sixth time in the past seven seasons.
Coming off a silver medal performance at last year's OUA championship and a berth at the national championships, Badgers skip Terri Weeks (McDougall, Ont.) and her Brock team will make the trip to Oshawa this week looking to bring an end to Laurier's run of dominance. Weeks, who was named a second-team all-star a season ago, will be joined this time around by Badgers rookie and lead for the Women's U21 Team Ontario, Marcia Richardson (Ottawa, Ont.).
Rounding out the podium finishers last year, Guelph skip Jestyn Murphy (Mississauga, Ont.) also returns as she looks to lead her Gryphons team to the top of the podium. Murphy, who was the 2014 U18 Optimist International Silver Medalist, is a current member of the Ontario Curling Council's Next Generation Program.
The last team to capture the OUA championship banner other than the Laurier Golden Hawks would be their purple rivals from Western in 2013. As a rookie a year ago, Carolyne Graham (Sudbury, Ont.) helped the Mustangs to a fourth place finish but the Sudbury, Ont. native will have surely her eyes set on a place on the podium this time around.
Lauren Horton and the Carleton Ravens soar into the OUA championship this weekend chasing their first OUA championship banner in program history. Despite never having hoisted the OUA trophy, the Ravens were the 2013-14 CIS champions and represented Canada at the 27th Winter Universiade in Granada, Spain where they captured the silver medal.
Laurentian has never won the OUA Curling Championship banner before but if skip Krysta Burns (Sudbury, Ont.) her Voyageurs teammates have anything to say about it, that streak might just be coming to an end. Representing Northern Ontario a couple weeks ago, Burns, along with vice-skip Megan Smith (Sudbury, Ont), second Sara Guy (Wahnapitae, Ont.) and lead Laura Masters (Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.) made it to the semifinals at the 2017 Canadian Junior Curling Championships.
Coming off a strong showing at the Sun Life Financial Junior Challenge, Lakehead skip Hailey Beaudry will have Thunderwolves team charged up as they contend for a place on the podium with some of the top curling teams in country.
In search of their first OUA title since 1994, rookie Courtney Auld and her Queen's Gaels team will descend upon the Oshawa Golf & Curling Club on Thursday. Prior to joining Queen's, Auld competed in the 2016 Canadian Junior Women's Curling Championship as the skip of Team Ontario where she finished the tournament with a 5-5 record.
After a successful debut for the Ryerson Rams curling program at last year's OUA championship, skip Maggie Macintosh (Hamilton, Ont.) is back in the fold once again. Macintosh, along with returning players Nicole Titkai (Toronto, Ont.) and Corrina Serda (Port Elgin, Ont.) will look to build upon the experience they gained in last year's event as they attempt to rise the OUA curling ranks.
Fifth-year skip Deanna Caldwell (New Liskeard, Ont.) along with third-year vice Deborah Hawkshaw (Toronto, Ont.) return in 2017 after leading her University of Toronto Varsity Blues team to a 5-1 record and a berth in the quarter-inals at last year's championship. Earlier this year at the Brock Invitational, the team went undefeated.
The host Ridgebacks are hoping to turn some heads at home and coming off a pair of wins at the Brock invitational less than a month ago, UOIT surely has some upset potential. The Ridgebacks defeated both Western and McMaster to finish the bonspiel with a 2-2 record.
For the Trent Excalibur, there will be plenty of fresh faces competing this weekend as four of their five student-athletes will be making their OUA championship debut. Freshman Sarah Daviau (Ottawa, Ont.) and second-year vice-skip Caitlyn Mabee, who was lead last year, will guide a retooling Trent program with high expectations this weekend.
On the men's side, it'll be a completely different team looking to extend Laurier's win streak to three straight. Skip Aaron Squires, vice Richard Krell, second Spencer Nuttall, and lead Fraser Reid have graduated so it'll be up to lone hold-over alternate Russell Cuddie (London, Ont.) to lead the team this year.
Making his OUA championship debut, Matt Hall (Kitchener, Ont.) will look to skip the Golden Hawks to their 9th title in program history. Earlier this year, the Kitchener, Ont. native captured silver as a member of Team Ontario at the 2017 Canadian Junior Curling Championships.
After a third place finish and a berth at nationals last year, the Brock Badgers are back and have their eyes set on a medal of a different colour. Skip Eric Bradey (Guelph, Ont.) and Badgers his teammates are hoping that a strong showing at the McMaster Invitational earlier this season will translate into a place on the top step of the podium come Monday evening. At the tournament, Brock finished first with a 3-0-1 record.
Returning all four of their all-stars from a year ago, the Queen' Gaels are a legitimate contender heading into this week's OUA championship. The Gaels are led this year by skip Wes Forget, who last November representing Ontario, went undefeated to win the Travelers Club Championship with his club team. Lead Alex Cormier (Ottawa, Ont.), second Decebal Michaud (Ottawa, Ont.) and third Connor Lawes (North Bay, Ont.) were all named first-team all-stars last year, while Pascal Michaud (Ottawa, Ont.) was selected as second-team all-star in the role of skip.
After narrowly missing out on the medal round a season ago, vice-turned-skip Jack Lindsay (Oakville, Ont.) and the University of Toronto Varsity Blues are determined to bring some hardware back with them this time around. If regular season results are any indication, the Lindsay led team could be serious medal contenders come Monday. Earlier this year at the Brock Invitational, U of T went 3-1 with big victories over Western, Queen's and Brock. Lindsay has what it takes to bring the banner back to Toronto as he was a member of the Blues last OUA championship winning team back in 2014.
Carleton will look to skip Douglas Kee to guide a young and developing conspiracy of Ravens into the OUA championship tomorrow in search of their first provincial title in program history. A two-time Ontario Junior Provincial champion, Kee is the Ravens' most accomplished player and will be looking to add to an already impressive resume in Oshawa. Playing alongside Kee, vice Brendan Acorn is a Schmirler Junior Sponsored High Performance Athlete and runner-up at 2017 Northern Ontario Junior Provincial Championships.
The Ridgebacks men are hoping that the home ice advantage will lead them to their best finish in the event. Back in 2015, the team finished 5-1 in the round robin before losing to the eventual champion Golden Hawks 5-3 in the quarter-finals. Earlier this year, the Ridgebacks finished 2-2 at the Brock Invitational, picking up a pair of wins against Western and Trent.
Now in his just his second year, Lakehead's Dave Henderson will be transitioning from second in 2016 to skip this time around. Henderson, who is currently enrolled in the Bachelor of Education program at Lakehead, hopes to have the Thunderwolves back in the playoff round this year after falling in their final round robin game in 2016.
Looking to improve upon a 4-3 finish at last year's OUA championship, Stuart Leslie (Metcalfe, Ont.) will take on the role of skip this time around for a young Ryerson Rams squad. Leslie, who was vice a season ago, and Alex Champ (Gravenhurst, Ont.) have switched roles heading into Thursday's competition. Earlier this year at the Brock invitational, the team finished tied for third with a 3-1 record and will look to build upon that as they face the best collegiate curlers in Ontario this weekend.
Veteran skip Dillon Muldoon will lead the Excalibur as they charge into competition tomorrow. In just a couple short months, the Trent men's team has taken some major strides and it would be a costly mistake for the opposition to take the young Excalibur team lightly.
Following completion of the tournament, the Ontario University Athletic Association Curling Trophy and the Women's Curling Trophy will be awarded to the winners. The OUAA Curling Trophy was first presented in 1964 by Messrs. W. Wilson and D. MacLennan, members of the McMaster University Curling Team). Along with the trophies, OUA banners will be presented to both the men's and women's champions, as well as gold, silver and bronze medals.
Tournament play begins Thursday at 8:00 am and finishes Monday at 5:00 pm with the gold and bronze medal matches. OUA first- and second-team all-star awards will be announced at the conclusion of the tournament.
Other teams competing this week are: Algoma Thunderbirds, McMaster Marauders, Waterloo Warriors and Windsor Lancers.
Click here to see the Rams championship schedule.