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Moose Jaw’s Ackerman looks back at Viterra Scotties win and the big games ahead

Saskatoon Nutana foursome to represent Saskatchewan at Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary next month
Team Saskatchewan lead Kaylin Skinner, second Taylor Stremick, third Ashley Thevenot and coach Patrick Ackerman with the Viterra Scotties Tournament of Hearts trophy.

It was one of those shots every curler has thought about, dreamed about and wondered how they’d react in that situation.

One shot for a chance to represent your province at a national curling championship, a chance to become curling royalty with one last trip down the ice.

For Moose Jaw’s Skylar Ackerman, that chance came on Sunday afternoon in Tisdale.

Facing an open hit with her final rock of the Viterra Scotties Tournament of Hearts, all Ackerman had to do was perform the same way she had all week, only this time it was for all the marbles.

“I wasn’t trying to think a lot about what that shot meant, for sure,” Ackerman said with a laugh Wednesday morning, long after the dust had cleared from the result of that shot. “I was just trying to take a deep breath and throw it like it was our Wednesday afternoon practice and we threw it like we had all week.”

The result was almost as perfect as could be: a hit and roll to the inside to touch the button for one and a 10-9 win over Martensville’s Nancy Martin.

And with that, Ackerman and her Saskatoon Nutana rink of lead Kaylin Skinner, second Taylor Stremick and lead Ashley Thevenot will represent Saskatchewan at the 2024 Scotties Tournament of Hearts beginning Friday, Feb. 16 at WinSport Arena in Calgary.

“It’s definitely been a whirlwind of emotions, and it feels like it hasn’t sunk in yet,” Ackerman said of the win. “It’s something my team and I have been working toward for so long, so for it to finally happen is pretty unbelievable.”

That things went as well as they did wasn’t too much of a surprise. The Ackerman foursome went into the Scotties as the second-ranked team in Saskatchewan on the Curling Team Ranking System after a solid showing on the tournament circuit leading up to Tisdale.

Victories in the Nutana and Moose Jaw WSCT spiels in addition to a tournament win in the pre-Scotties Players Championship gave the rink plenty of confidence heading in, something that can be key when dealing with the high-pressure games a provincial tournament brings.

“When we set up planning our season at the beginning of the year, the biggest thing at the top of our list was to win this event and the whole season was geared toward provincials,” said Ackerman. “We had some early success in November and December with a couple of spiels and just built on that.”

Sure enough, Ackerman got off to a great start once provincials began, winning her first three games and eventually finishing first in her Pool with a 4-1 record. It was that one loss -- a 10-5 defeat at the hands of Robyn Silvernagle in their fourth game -- that helped keep things on track, acting as a point of refocus at a perfect time.

“We just had a really good chat and regrouped, and after that loss we played 10 times better,” Ackerman said, adding that work with a mental trainer during the season helped in that regard. “It was all about staying focussed and being present and not thinking too much about the outcome of the game, just take things one shot at a time and not get too far ahead of yourselves.”

As it turns out, that loss would be the final bit of disappointment for the Nutana foursome that week.

Ackerman defeated Martin 7-6 in the Page Playoff 1-2 game to advance directly to the final, setting up their barnburner in the gold medal game.

And when that final shot settled in the four foot, to say Ackerman and crew were elated would be an understatement.

“Our whole team, we were just vibrating. It was a dream come true for all of us, and when that rock settled at the top of the button like it did, it took us a minute to realize and then we were over the moon.”

That set in a whirlwind of action, from receiving their team jackets and posing for photos to meetings with Curl Sask officials to set up the next steps leading to the national Scotties.

“It’s just so much of a bigger stage, definitely a high calibre of competition, so we’re going to go in and try to play like we have been, enjoy the experience and enjoy the moment,” Ackerman said.

The Scotties field has partially been set, with luminaries Kerri Einarson returning as Team Canada, Jennifer Jones representing Manitoba and Rachel Homan suiting up for Ontario. Melissa Adams (New Brunswick), Jo-Ann Rizzo (Northwest Territories), Heather Smith (Nova Scotia) and Bayly Scoffin (Yukon) have also booked their spots with the remaining 10 berths to be decided over the next couple weekends.

Ackerman hasn’t had a lot of experience against elite teams this season, having faced Kaitlyn Lawes’ Manitoba-based crew earlier in the campaign, but that changes little.

“We’ll try not to look at the name on the jacket, that’s for sure,” Ackerman said with laugh. “We’ll just have to focus on our game and what we’re doing… it’ll mainly be just playing our best. Try not to worry about outcomes, and while winning the red jacket would be cool, we’re going to try and play within ourselves and have some fun.”

Moose Jaw’s Amber Holland will join Team Ackerman as their fifth, a role she’s played multiple times in the past, most recently when Penny Barker won the 2022 Viterra Scotties.

“We’re really excited to learn from her and her experience, she’ll definitely be a great addition and I’m sure will help us a lot,” Ackerman said.

While the schedule has yet to be set, the first draw is at 6 p.m. on Feb. 16, with three draws a day through Feb, 22. The playoffs begin Feb. 23, with the semifinal and final taking place on Sunday, Feb. 25.

You can follow all the action on and draws will be broadcast throughout the week on TSN.

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