When her rink fell in the first round of the playoffs at the Viterra Scotties provincial women’s curling championship, Moose Jaw’s Skylar Ackerman thought her quest to reach the highest level of curling in Canada had come to an end for this season.
A day later, that all changed.
The 21-year-old Saskatoon Nutana skip received a text from provincial champion Robyn Silvernagle asking if she’d be interested in serving as the team’s fifth for the upcoming Scotties Tournament in Kamloops, and it’s safe to say it wasn’t a difficult decision.
“It was pretty easy to say yes,” Ackerman said with a laugh. “They said they thought I had the ability to play any position that they needed me to and that it would be a neat experience for me, and I’m just really, really grateful.”
Ackerman had naturally hoped to make the trip with her team -- which includes third Kya Kennedy, second Taylor Stremick and lead Kaylin Skinner -- but playing as a fifth alongside a two-time provincial champion in Silvernagle was most certainly a nice consolation prize.
“At first I was definitely in shock for a bit, really surprised and really, really excited,’ Ackerman said. “It’s kind of a dream come true to go to my first Scotties with Team Saskatchewan and I could never thank them enough for this… I haven’t even really slept the last couple of days, but that’s alright.”
The opportunity was well earned, to say the least. Playing her first season on the women’s tour after a successful junior career that saw her rinks contend for provincial titles year in and year out, Ackerman put together a great campaign and landed an automatic berth in the provincial Scotties.
There, she’d post a 3-3 record, reaching the first round of the Page Playoffs before falling in an extra end to Sask curling legend Sherry Anderson.
“It was our first year together in women’s and we had a really good run, I’m really happy with how this season went,” Ackerman said. “We had a really good start to the season and really clicked, we get along really well, we’re good friends on and off the ice and I think that really helps.”
Now the goal will be to stay as sharp as possible heading into the national Scotties, which begin on Friday, Feb, 17 from the Sandman Centre in Kamloops.
“I just want to enjoy the moment, soak it all in and gain some experience,” Ackerman said. “I’m hoping to learn a lot from them and I know that I will. Then it’s just supporting them as much as I can so they can be successful on the ice and do well.”
Silvernagle and her North Battleford team of third Kelly Shafer, second Sherry Just and lead
Kara Thevenot open their round robin on Feb. 17 against Nova Scotia’s Christina Black before taking on Alberta’s Kayla Skrlik in their lone game Feb. 18 and B.C.’s Clancy Grandy on Feb. 19. They begin the new week against Quebec’s Laurie St. George on Feb, 20 before taking on Wild Card #1 Kaitlyn Lawes and Team Canada’s Kerri Einarson in their two games on Feb. 21. Silvernagle’s lone game on Feb. 22 is against Nunavut’s Brigitte McPhail and they close out the preliminary round on Feb. 23 against P.E.I’s Suzanne Birt.
The top three teams from each round-robin pool advance to the playoff round on Feb. 24, followed by the Page Playoffs first two rounds on Feb. 25 and the semifinal and final on Feb, 26.
Facing some of the top teams in the world will be a different experience for Ackerman, but it’s one she’s getting more and more used to as time goes on.
“It’s still a little starstruck when you step out on the ice and they’re there or you see their names on a draw, but we’ve had the opportunity to play some of those teams in World Curling Tour events when we travel around, so we’re getting a little more used to it,” Ackerman said. “But I imagine the heart will still be pumping a bit for sure.”
While Ackerman will likely only see the ice if a game is a blowout or someone gets sick or injured, she still plans to do what she can to help Silvernagle and crew perform at their best.
“It’s going to be different, but I’m looking forward to experiencing it firsthand and the behind-the-scenes action of everything,” she said. “ Hopefully I’ll be there myself as a Scotties winner one day, so I’ll just soak it all in and pick up as much as I can.”
Ackerman won’t be the only Moose Jaw connection to the team, as CurlSask Director of High Performance Pat Simmons will serve as Silvernagle’s coach.
You can follow along with all the scores from the event on TSN and at www.curling.ca/2023scotties/.