An impressive month of curling has landed Skylar Ackerman and her Moose Jaw Ford Curling Centre rink a berth in the New Holland Canadian Juniors national championship.
Ackerman and her rink of third Madison Johnson, second Chantel Hoag and lead Samantha McLaren lost 5-3 to Regina's Rachel Erickson in the final of the CurlSask junior women's provincial championship in Saskatoon, and normally that would have been the end of their season playing at that level.
But the Yukon Territory was unable to field a team this year, and since nationals are in Prince Albert, a second berth was given to Saskatchewan for the provincial finalist, as well as the champion.
So, after Ackerman took a 7-4 win over Weyburn's Emily Haupstein in the championship round semifinal, they had accomplished a pretty incredible goal.
“It's a little too bad we couldn't pull off the final win and get that green jacket again, but to still go to nationals is going to be a great experience and we're going to be super excited,” Ackerman said.
The 'green jacket’ comment refers to something that had already happened once a month earlier, as the local rink won the Canada Games provincial championship to pick up their first set of green jackets of the year.
That win certainly helped when it came to CurlSask provincials, since good curling is good curling and can lead to great results no matter the opponent.
“We knew going into the competition that we'd have to play well and we set our goals to make it to the final because we knew that two teams would come out,” Ackerman said. “When we made it there we were pretty excited because we knew we were going to nationals, and it's a U-21 tournament and we're still all 17-and-under, so it's a great accomplishment for us and we're all really excited.”
Ackerman once again had to play a heck of a lot of games to get the job done – the final marked their third game in a day and fourth since the previous evening.
“Yeah, but the easy way is no fun,” Ackerman laughed. “That final game we were pretty tired, but we gave it all we got and I'm really proud of all the girls for digging in and curling really well.”
Ackerman finished the round robin tied for first place in her round robin pool with a 4-1 record, but the luck of the draw saw to it she'd have to play an extra game in the championship round. She defeated Saskatoon's Ashley Thevenot 6-1 in that contest and followed with an 8-7 extra end win over Saskatoon's Madison Kleiter in the quarter-final to set up the all-important national qualifying game with Haupstein.
Part of all that success undoubtedly came from the pre-tournament preparation that in addition to curling practice included working with a mental coach and nutritionist, a plan of attack the team and their coaches will look to keep on track heading into nationals.
“It's a huge help, it gives us a big edge on other teams and it helps us with having extra focus and extra energy when we're going into games,” Ackerman said.
It all sets the stage for their first crack at the Canadian Juniors, into which they'll once again carry lofty aspirations.
“Our goal is to make it to the championship round, we have to place top four in our pool and there's seven in our pool, so we're just going to try and finish in the top four and make it to the championship round and anything can happen from there,” Ackerman said.
The New Holland Canadian Juniors are in Prince Albert from Jan. 19 to 27.