CurlManitoba’s U-18 Championships begin tonight in Altona – with 7 young men’s teams and 10 young women’s teams participating. The men play a 7 team, 6 game round robin while the women are split in two pools of five for a four game round robin.
It will be a first major test for the two teams which won the Canada Games Trials at Heather in November. Dayna Wahl’s Altona team and Jace Freeman’s Virden team will be out to prove it was no fluke that they earned the Canada Games berth and that they should be one of the two Manitoba teams at the Canadian U-18’s in early February in Timmins, ON as well.
In the Men’s U-18 Championship, Freeman and Elias Huminicki were on last year’s winning McDonald team and their lead, Jack Steski, was on the finalist team a year ago. The combined credentials identify them as the favorite. Rylan Graham, their fourth player, also played in this event a year ago.
Huminicki is already the leader in games played at the Manitoba U-18 Men’s Championship – having played 26 games in four previous appearances. He is poised to move ahead of his former skip, Jordon McDonald, into first place on the list of most games won. With 17 previous wins he is tied for second in that stats category, behind only McDonald who won 20 games out of 21 played as he skipped the 2019, 2020, and 2022 champion teams. (The event was cancelled due to covid in 2021).
Cameron Olafson, who was also on the winning McDonald team a year ago, is skipping his own Portage team this year. Two other members of the 2022 finalist Ryan Ostrowsky team are also playing this year. Luke Robins is skipping a West St. Paul team with Logan Strand at lead. They lost the Canada Games Trials semi-final. Finalist Ronan Peterson’s Heather team, the only team in the championship from inside the perimeter highway, is also competing in Altona.
In the Women’s U-18 Championship, Team Wahl (Piper Stoesz, Anna Marie Ginters, Gilian Hildebrand) topped their round robin pool in last year`s championship but lost in the semi-final to Grace Beaudry who went on to lose the final. Beaudry has recruited Cassidy Dundas and Tessa Terrick from last year`s champion team. With Lauren Evason rounding out the squad, the Wahl & Beaudry teams can be considered co-favourites this year. It is notable that Beaudry recently won a 2023 Scotties berth (with a different team).
Altona’s Mackenzie Zacharias teams won three consecutive U-18 titles in 2015-1026-2017. Tessa Terrick and Cassidy Dundas have each won 17 games in previous U-18 appearances, a number well behind the leading 38 games played by Meghan Walter in seven appearances at the event.
The Altona Curling Club hosts the championship action, beginning with an 8PM Men`s draw this evening and continuing to playoffs at 9AM and 1PM on Saturday.