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Saskatchewan hits high gear in preparation for Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championship

With selection of teams completed, focus now turns to refining and practicing for tournament Mar 22-29 at Moose Jaw Curling Centre

For most teams from Saskatchewan heading into a Canadian championship, it’s usually a situation where the goal is to win a few games, put in a good showing and let the chips fall where they may.

That most certainly isn’t the case with the Saskatchewan wheelchair curling teams.

No, the four-time gold medalists will be there to win it, will be among the prohibitive favourites and if everything goes according to plan, two teams from the province will be playing for a gold medal when things play out Mar. 24-30 during the Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championship at the Moose Jaw Curling Centre.

Both Saskatchewan 1 and 2 were on the ice Sunday afternoon at the Moose Jaw Curling Centre, with the practice taking a special turn as players on both teams received their green jackets for the national tournament.

With the teams now selected and set, the focus now turns to specific preparation for the event in a month-and-a-half’s time.

Team 1 will be comprised of Team Canada member Gil Dash, Paralympic bronze medalist Marie Wright, Moose Gibson and Sheryl Pederson, with Dash, Wright and Gibson having played alongside Darwin Bender on their way to winning gold in Moose Jaw last season.

With Bender having retired from the sport, Pederson has made the move from Team 2 to Team 1.

“Moving Sheryl to Team 1 gives us a lot of options when it comes to equalizing the men-women ratio,” said coach Lorraine Arguin. “If one of the women goes down and you only have one woman on the team, you’re done, you can’t play. So we needed to make sure we had two-and-two and Cheryl was the best option.

“She’s easy to work with and has been coming out for extra practice, and with Marie on the team, it’s a good balance.”

Team 2 is almost completely comprised of newcomers. Skip Rod Pederson returns to lead the rink, with Saskatoon’s Pete Andrews and Mark Kennedy joined by Regina’s Zahra Ehsani and Tara Hess in making their nationals debut.

“They’ve all been good recruits and have shown a lot of improvement in a short amount of time,” Arguin said. “They’re throwing their take-out weight pretty consistently and their draw weight is something that’s harder to come along with wheelchair curling, but as they practice they’ll get better…  they’re very, very willing to learn and improve so that’s awesome.”

Despite the travel, the Saskatchewan teams have been able to gather regularly on Sundays in Moose Jaw to practice, with a four-hour day of skills sessions and exhibition games helping with everyone’s development.

This past Sunday, for example, saw teams work on their skills in the morning before receiving their jackets and then taking the ice for a game while using shot clocks -- something that’s a new experience for the rookies.

It’s all pushing toward the goal of winning yet another gold medal, with Dash and Wright shooting for their fifth national title.

“That’ll be the goal for both teams, and if they end up playing each other in the final, that would be pretty nice,” Arguin said.

Until things get going on Mar. 22, though, it’s just a matter of as much refinement and improvement as possible.

“We’ll keep practicing on the weekends, the Saskatoon and Regina people will be practicing on their own when they can and Sunday mornings, the Regina crew usually make it out here,” Arguin said. “Then with Gil leaving for Worlds, we’ll be trying to get some practices in before he leaves, but otherwise we’ll be working on everything with the players who are here.”

Be sure to keep an eye on for updates on teams and tournament draw as things draw closer.

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