Curling twins have notable link

STEVE GREEN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:04 AM ET

It's not as bad as, say, having the name Gretzky, being from Brantford and playing hockey, but Lee and Breanne Merklinger have had to deal with their share of name recognition. And the 19-year-old twins are dealing with it very well.

With Lee at skip and Breanne throwing second stones, their West Ottawa Granite rink -- with Peter Gilich at vice and Brian Fleischhaker at lead -- is tied for second at 2-1 at the Ontario junior mixed (21-and-under) championship at the London Curling Club.

For the record, they're half-sisters of four-time Ontario women's champion Anne Merklinger, not her nieces or daughters as is frequently asked. The family connection and resultant high expectations of others are things the twins gladly embrace.

"The thing is, Anne's and our (junior girls') teams have had their share of losses, too," Lee said. "The name's hard to follow, but we wouldn't have it any other way. It was fantastic growing up having a sister like her to idolize.

"She gives us a pep talk before every bonspiel, no matter how small. She always says, 'One shot at a time, one end at a time, one game at a time.' "

"She's taught us a lot about respect," Breanne added. "She's very, very respectful to her teammates and to her opponents."

Breanne is the older of the two but by how much is subject to debate.

"She'll say six minutes but it was 2 1/2 ," Lee said, laughing. "I just got tired of looking at her butt for nine months, I guess." It's just one of a few subtle differences between the first-year University of Ottawa students.

"I've always played lead and I've never thought about playing any other position," said Breanne, who throws left-handed. "I don't know why. I just love it."

And Breanne is a steadying influence on Lee, both agree.

"I get her vibes, her body language. If we're fighting about something, I'll just park it and we'll fight each other later," Lee said.

"I balance her out," Breanne added. "She's a perfectionist. She'll stay up to four in the morning just to make sure she's got something done right. Me, if I'm tired, I'll go to bed even if I've done a half-assed job."

That's definitely not how one would describe their on-ice play. This provincial appearance continues a streak for the twins of being in an Ontario final every year since 1998.

They lost the Ontario junior girls' final in 2003 and 2004.

A natural progression would seem to be teaming up with Anne in the future and the twins admit that's a possibility.

They have already played against world-calibre opposition, losing to the likes of Sherry Anderson and Suzanne Gaudet at the Montreal bonspiel early in the season, both on last rock.

"It's weird to step on the ice and see Sherry Anderson standing beside you," Lee said.

What's not weird is seeing the name Merklinger in contention.

In the bantam (16-and-under) mixed, Derek Whitehill of Peterborough got two unusual wins to share top spot with Matt Stoll of Niagara Falls at 3-0.

In his morning game, Whitehill tied it with three in the eighth end -- after giving up a four in the seventh -- and stole five in the extra end for a 14-9 win over David Coffey of Toronto Tam Heather.

Whitehill then scored four in the fourth end of his afternoon game but needed to score one in the extra end for a 5-4 win over Samantha Peters of Brockville.

ONT. JUNIOR MIXED

At London Curling Club

Third draw

Abbotts 9, McLean 2

Hodgson 9, Merklinger 5

Corby 7, Anderson 5

Grant 8, Gray 7

Second draw

Grant 8, Hodgson 5

McLean 10, Corby 2

Merklinger 10, Gray 4

Abbotts 11, Anderson 5

W L

Abbotts (Sarnia) 3 0

Merklinger (W.Ottawa) 2 1

McLean (Ottawa CC) 2 1

Grant (Ennismore) 2 1

Gray (Orangeville) 1 2

Corby (Ilderton) 1 2

Hodgson (Guelph) 1 2

Anderson (Bayview) 0 3

Today -- 9 a.m., 4:30 p.m.

Tomorrow -- Noon, 7:30 p.m.

ONT. BANTAM MIXED

At London Curling Club

Third draw

Stoll 6, Lizmore 3

Coffey 6, Therien 4

Clayton 4, McCormack 3

Whitehill 5, Peters 4

Second draw

Whitehill 14, Coffey 9 (9 ends)

Stoll 5, McCormack 3

Peters 8, Therien 5

Clayton 9, Lizmore 4

W L

Stoll (Niagara Falls) 3 0

Whitehill (Peterborough) 3 0

Peters (Brockville) 2 1

Clayton (Brant) 2 1

McCormack (Brampton) 1 2

Coffey (Tam Heather) 1 2

Lizmore (Guelph) 0 3

Therien (Huntley) 0 3

Today -- 12:30 p.m., 8 p.m.

Tomorrow -- 9 a.m., 4 p.m.


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