Charley Thomas Wins the Canadian Junior Title (again)
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Source: Canadian Curling Association
ST. CATHARINES, February 10…Alberta’s Charley Thomas, representing the Calgary Curling Club, successfully defended his title at the M&M Meat Shops Canadian Juniors, Saturday at the St. Catharines Golf & Country Club, defeating Prince Edward Island, 7-6 in an extra end.
It was the first extra end men’s final since 2000, when British Columbia’s Brad Kuhn edged Newfoundland’s Brad Gushue in Moncton, 8-7.
In last year’s final in Thunder Bay, Thomas took control in the second half, eventually defeating British Columbia, 7-2. This year’s final was much closer, as he also had two new players, third Brock Virtue and second Matt Ng, joining himself and lead Kyle Reynolds.
“It’s totally different,” said the 20-year-old Thomas, who actually now lives in Edmonton but curled out of Grande Prairie last year when winning the Canadian and world junior titles. “ This one seems real, the other one so surreal. The first time we were happy to win the province. Now that we knew we had the ability to do it, it makes it a lot more worthwhile.”
The final was a tight one throughout. After a blanked first end, Alberta was forced to take one, as Thomas, facing two PEI counters, made a difficult draw through a port.
Prince Edward Island, skipped by lanky 16-year-old Brett Gallant of Charlottetown, answered by making an open hit for a deuce in the third for a 2-1 lead.
Thomas came back with one in the fourth but Gallant made a beautiful split for two in the fifth, as the Islanders took a 4-2 lead at the break.
After an Alberta single in the sixth closed the gap to 4-3, the seventh end proved pivotal, as Gallant was a little heavy on an overswept rock, leaving Alberta with a steal of two and a 5-4 lead. The teams then traded singles in the next three ends, as the final was tied at 6 after regulation.
However, in the 11th end, Gallant was forced to try a runback to remove an Alberta counter with his last stone, a tough shot which just missed, allowing Thomas to win the title, 7-6, without throwing his final rock.
“We knew it was going to be a close game,” continued Thomas. “We expected it to go all 10 ends. Their whole team, the first part of the game, they outplayed us immensely and we just kind of stuck in there and weathered the storm a bit. All the finals that we played in, we always lost to the team in the round robin that we played in the final and we beat them.”
Team shooting percentages actually gave a slight edge to Prince Edward Island, 73%-71%, but Thomas held a 73%-60% margin over Gallant, who was making his third appearance in four years, after becoming the youngest skip, at age 13, to compete in the Juniors back in 2004, a record subsequently eclipsed this year by 12-year-old Thomas Scoffin of Yukon.
It was a leading 15th title for Alberta since the men’s championship began in 1950. Thomas, who wound up with an overall record of 12-1, losing only to Prince Edward Island, 6-4 during the week, will now try to join Ontario’s John Morris (1998-99) as the only two-time consecutive winner of Canadian and world junior titles, when he takes to the ice March 3-11 in Eveleth, Minnesota, for the 2007 world juniors. Last year, he captured world honours in Jeonju, Korea.
“We still have one more step, but I never compare myself to anyone else,” continued Thomas. “We knew it was going to be a really tough fought game. We were ready to play from the get-go. But we never expected them to play that well at the beginning. We just had to call on our experience, stay calm and be really patient throughout the whole game.”
“Charley’s got a great team,” said Gallant. “We were pretty happy after five ends. We held them to one in the sixth end, but the seventh end kind of got away from us.”
On his team’s goals coming into the event, Gallant added, “We wanted to make the playoffs, first of all. We reached that goal. Then we wanted to win our semi and we did that. Then when we won that, we wanted to win the final. But all in all, a pretty good week.”
Gallant’s record in his 2004 debut was 3-9. He improved to 7-5 last year, then finished this year’s edition with a 10-4 record, as he was trying to become just the second Prince Edward Island skip to win the Canadian junior men’s title, joining Bill Jenkins, who took the1976 crown in Kapuskasing.
The M&M Meat Shops Canadian junior women’s final will be played Sunday at 12:30 pm ET, live on CBC-TV, pitting Newfoundland and Labrador (Stacie Devereaux of St. John’s), seeking its first junior women’s title, against last year’s runner-up, Manitoba (Calleen Neufeld of Winnipeg.)
SOURCE: Canadian Curling Association