Calgary rink having a blast

TODD SAELHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

Kevin Yablonski has gone fishin' for national gold in Salmon Arm, B.C.

And the young Calgary curler is making sure it's the thrill of a lifetime, regardless of whether he and his rinkmates hook the title from the 2009 M&M Meat Shops Canadian Juniors.

"I want it to be a good experience," said Yablonski, who's representing Alberta at the junior men's nationals with third Michael Ng, second Brad Benini and lead Derek Clark. "If we don't happen to come out on top, we want to make sure we make friends and enjoy ourselves here."

So far, so good -- on all counts.

On the ice, the Calgary Winter Club team is 3-1 through the first two days of the championships.

In trying to copy the 2007 crown grab by Charley Thomas as the last Calgary rink to represent Alberta at the nationals, Yablonski and Co. started strong with two wins on the first day, including an opening 8-3 win over Quebec's Andrew Leigh.

The Alberta skip then took that success to cyber ice, making friends with his opponents from Buckingham, Que., before accepting their challenge of video hockey.

"Let bygones be bygones," said 19-year-old Yablonski, who split with the French-Canadians in a two-game NHL Xbox exhibition featuring the Calgary Flames and the Montreal Canadiens. "We had some fun playing."

The fun continued back on real ice, where Yablonski won handily in Sunday's late draw -- 8-1 over B.C.'s Bryan Kedziora -- before playing two more games yesterday.

The Albertans overpowered Ontario's Bowie Abbis-Mills 11-4 before losing 5-4 to New Brunswick's Stephen Burgess to give them a solid 3-1 record in the junior men's standings.

"It's perfect ice here," Yablonski said. "The weight's nice and the curl's nice. No one can argue with anything where conditions are concerned.

"We're just taking it one game at a time," Yablonski continued. "We can't look ahead and say we've gotta win X amount of games to get to the playoffs.

"There's not going to be any easy games."

Certainly it's no cakewalk with Manitoba's Sam Good in the offing today and both PEI's Brett Gallant and Saskatchewan's Mike Armstrong still ahead on the 12-game schedule.

"You've always got to look at PEI because Gallant's been here something like the last four years," said Alberta coach Randy Yablonski. "Two years ago, he lost to Charley Thomas in the final -- a real tight one. And last year, he lost in the semifinal.

"The comment from the boys when we had our first practice here was 'everybody looks pretty good.' But that's why they're all here," added the coach.

"But the boys are pretty positive. They look at it that if we put our best foot forward and stay within the gameplan, they should be fairly successful."

EXTRA ENDS

Casey Scheidegger's Alberta women's entry at the Canadian Juniors is 3-1 after two days at the championships. The Lethbridge skip is flanked by third Kailyn Park, second Jessie Scheidegger and lead Jayme Coutts ... Dave Rutherford of the Inglewood Golf & Curling Club is off to the senior men's provincials, Feb. 18-22 in Edmonton. He earned one of three berths representing SACA with an 8-5 win over Red Deer's Rob Armitage in Saturday's A final of the Southerns in Airdrie. Lethbridge's Ian Wolsey joined Rutherford by winning the B event in Sunday's 8-3 final over Inglewood's Ken Scott. Yesterday was the C final, where Armitage topped Scott 9-4 ... Also in Airdrie, Linda Wagner of the Calgary Curling Club and Diane Foster of the Calgary Winter Club captured spots for the senior women's provincials. The Southerns saw Wagner score a 5-4, A-final victory over Peggy Harper (Calgary Curling). Foster then upended Harper in the B final by scoring three in the 10th end. Harper did capture C qualifier yesterday -- 9-8 in an extra end over Medicine Hat's Arlene Keck -- for the right to represent SACA at the provincials, Feb. 18-22 at Edmonton's Granite Curling Club ... The juvenile women's Southerns wrapped up Sunday in Brooks, where two teams of eight entries qualified for the provincials, March 6-8 in Olds. Lethbridge's Megan Orr won four straight draws to capture the A-event qualifier, including the final 6-3 Saturday over Red Deer's Jocelyn Peterman. Peterman then beat the Calgary Winter Club's Keely Brown 9-2 in Sunday's B final to grab the other qualifying spot.

LAST ROCK

Southerns for both the juvenile men and masters begin Friday in Fort Macleod and Medicine Hat respectively. Among the eight juvenile men's competitors are Craig Bourgonje (Sundre), Matthew Kindree (Garrison) and Jacob Orrt (Garrison), Carter Lautner (Calgary Winter) and Dwayne Conlon (North Hill).


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