Yukon North Of Ordinary

Sports archive for January 7, 2014

Loss in Alberta final frustrates Scoffin

The junior curling nationals will go on without a familiar face later this month in Liverpool, N.S.

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HEARTBREAK IN ALBERTA – Skip Thomas Scoffin eyes up a shot in the Alberta junior men’s curling finals at the Leduc Curling Club Dec. 30. Scoffin’s University of Alberta rink suffered a 7-4 extra end loss to Calgary’s Carter Lautner in the provincial final. Photo courtesy GREG SOUTHAM/EDMONTON JOURNAL

The junior curling nationals will go on without a familiar face later this month in Liverpool, N.S.

Whitehorse native Thomas Scoffin’s streak of seven straight appearances at the country’s top junior showcase was snapped with a loss in the Alberta junior men’s curling finals last week.

The University of Alberta Junior Golden Bears rink, led by the 19-year-old Scoffin, lost the provincial final 7-4 in an extra end to Calgary’s Carter Lautner on Monday, Dec. 30.

Scoffin took home a silver medal from last year’s junior national event in Fort McMurray, Alta.

The January event had become a tradition of sorts for Scoffin, who holds the record as the youngest skip ever to attend a nationals when he was just12 years old.

“It’s strange,” Scoffin told the Star about missing out on the tournament this year. “It’s hard to describe. It’s hard to take a loss that way.”

Scoffin expressed his frustration at the loss, the latest in a string of tight big-game losses.

Last February, Scoffin lost the gold-medal game at the junior nationals 4-3 to Team Manitoba, skipped by Winnipeg’s Matt Dunstone, on the final shot of the 10th end.

In November, he missed an opportunity to claim his first World Curling Tour win in Calgary, losing 3-2 to South Korean skip Chang-Min Kim.

Now this.

“Losing finals gets old pretty quick,” Scoffin said last night. “It’s a tough loss and it really takes the wind out of your sails.”

Scoffin and his rink of Dylan Gousseau, Jaques Bellamy and Andrew O’Dell finished the round robin with a 5-2 record, and won a 8-7 extra-end squeaker over Dawson Creek’s Dylan Vavrek to land a berth in the Alberta championship final held in Leduc.

Scoffin said his team dominated the first five ends of the final, but could only manage a 2-0 lead through six.

That’s when Lautner’s rink, which included Scoffin’s former teammate David Aho at second, began to pour it on, scoring a deuce in the seventh and stealing points in the eight and ninth ends to lead 4-2 heading into the 10th.

While Scoffin was able to knot it up 4-4 in the final end, he had to relinquish the hammer to Lautner – and the Calgary skip made him pay.

Lautner scored a triple with a four-foot runback in the extra end after Scoffin landed his last “all-or-nothing” shot, marking a swift and bitter end to the Junior Bears’ curling season.

“I’m pretty devastated, to be honest,” Scoffin told the Edmonton Journal post-game. “We had a great team lined up to go all the way this year, so it’s pretty disappointing not to win the final.”

The loss spelled the end of Scoffin’s team’s time together as Gousseau and O’Dell both age out this season.

“I’ll be losing another half of my team, but we’ll do our best to rebuild,” said Scoffin, who has one year of junior eligibility remaining.

The sophomore university student is now practising with Brendan Bottcher’s senior team, which recently took home a bronze medal from the World University Games.

Scoffin will serve as the team’s fifth at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport Curling Championships in Regina March 19 to 23.

University of Alberta curling coach Rob Krepps said all good curlers experience hardships on the road to greatness, and Scoffin is no different.

“I’ve always believed it takes a certain number of peaks and valleys in a young curler’s development to truly get to the top of the heap,” Krepps said today. “For every peak, there needs to be a valley somewhere and it only helps you on your climb in the long term.

“This is just a little valley and I’m very confident that Thomas and the other players that we are able to put with him next season will be able to do everything they did this year, and hopefully more.”

Despite last week’s defeat, and other close losses this season, Krepps said it is important to remember that Scoffin’s rink was more often than not the youngest team competing in their bonspiels and World Curling Tour events.

“Thomas and his team had a very solid season and probably by most accounts would have been the favourites heading into the junior men’s provincials,” Krepps said. “They actually played quite well there. It’s just that there were some other teams that played just as well.”

Coming out on the losing end of a provincial final “that could have gone either way” is nothing to hang your head about, Krepps said.

“Thomas probably made it about as difficult as possible on the other skip, given the circumstances ... it’s really difficult to consider that a failure,” the coach said.

“That said, anybody who’s a competitor isn’t going to be happy when they lose a game like that and I’m not sure I would expect any other reaction other than disappointment and frustration. If you want to win, it bugs you when you don’t and it hurts a little bit.”

Krepps said the university continues to have high hopes for the sport and recreation student going forward.

“Thomas has a very bright future with us as part of the Senior Bears team next year and beyond,” he said.

While Scoffin will not attend the junior nationals, he had kind words for Sarah Koltun, his longtime junior counterpart who will make her eight appearance at nationals this month – a Canadian record.

Yesterday, Team Koltun won a tiebreaker over Team Galusha in the NWT/YT women’s playdowns and will represent the North at the Scotties in February.

“It speaks volumes to Whitehorse in general, and the great ice we’ve curled on since Grade 2,” Scoffin said of Team Koltun’s success this season. “It’s pretty cool to see it coming together for them.”

With files by Norm Cowley, Edmonton Journal

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