Curling skip Jim Sias is trying not to get too excited just yet.
The 38-year-old led his team to victory at the local men’s Travelers Curling Club Championships last weekend, his fifth attempt at the title.
However, he and rinkmates Greg Thompson (third), Lee Malanchuk (second) and Brad Wilson (lead) may still need to square off with teams from the communities – including Atlin, B.C. – in order to represent the Yukon at the national event at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club in November.
While potential opposition rinks haven’t yet been announced, the Yukon Travelers Curling Club Championships is scheduled to occur March 5 to 8 in Whitehorse.
“That’s the thing,” Sias said. “At this point, we’re not getting overly excited because there still is probably a territorial competition we have to win. But we’re feeling happy to win the club event, because it is hard.
“I’ve been interested in the Travelers for a while, because I think it’s more the level our team is at.”
Sias’ rink went 4-0 in last weekend’s playdowns, beating rival teams led by Ray Mikkelsen, Matt Johnson, Walter Wallingham and Tyler Williams. Games were held on Saturday and Sunday.
“I wouldn’t say we were dominant, but we didn’t lose any games,” Sias said. “We had three really close games that could have gone either way.”
Sias outlasted Mikkelsen, Wallingham and Williams in tight contests, and had a bit of an easier go against Johnson, thanks to a rare six-ender to open that game.
On the other hand, the win over Williams took an extra end to decide.
“That was our last game, so it could have forced a tiebreaker,” Sias explained. “Tyler was 2-1 going into that game and we were 3-0, so if he had won, it would have forced a tiebreaker game.”
Facing two stones, Sias’ first shot drew to the four-foot – and stood up to be the winner, 7-6, as Williams came up light with his last attempt.
Sias and company curl together in the Tuesday Night Super League. None of the team members have ever attended a national competition.
On the women’s side, the Smallwood name was once again in the winner’s circle, this time courtesy of skip Jody Smallwood.
The 38-year-old topped the field of three rinks, edging out both Laura Eby and Leslie Grant for the honour.
Smallwood’s rink dropped their first game against Grant, but came back to beat them twice to win the double-knockout format event.
Joining Smallwood as champions are rinkmates April Williams (third), Joan Hyrve (second) and Laura Williamson (lead).
The team plays in the Thursday Night League at the Whitehorse club.
Smallwood’s husband, Bob Smallwood, will represent the Yukon at the Brier this year.
Jody Smallwood and Hyrve previously represented the Yukon at the Dominions in 2012.
“It’s an awesome tournament to go to,” she said. “They treat you really well and it’s a great experience.”
Her rink is also taking a run at the Pacific International Cup this season, battling Eby’s rink in a three-game series for a shot at the April tournament in Richmond, B.C.
Back to the men’s side, Pat Paslawski’s two-time defending champion rink did not participate in this year’s Whitehorse playdowns.
The 48-year-old’s team was not eligible, due to changes to the national tournament structure.
“After having some teams repeatedly represent their provinces and territories, Travelers made a change to the rules,” Paslawski explained in an email to the Star.
“The new rule says that team can’t repeat as a territorial or provincial
For his part, Paslawski says he supports the rule, which is meant to encourage the participation of more teams and raise numbers for curling clubs across Canada.
“I know how bad Jim Sias’ team wanted to go, so I’m happy for them,” he added.
“They’ll be great representatives for the Yukon.”