Junior kings out rockin' men's curling

TODD SAELHOF -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

Life after winning the junior worlds has been a learning experience for Calgary's curling kings.

There's the obvious bravado carried forward from the success of capturing the world title for Charley Thomas and his champion rink. But now that Thomas and Co. are a year older and forced to curl in the men's bracket, there's plenty of adjustments to make against older, more established competition.

"We got off to a slow start," said J.D. Lind, now Thomas' third after coaching the rink last year in junior competition. "The big thing we realized is that -- even though we are world champions and had a lot of success last year -- playing with the men is really different. We realize we need to do a lot of improving -- learn from our mistakes."

So far, so good. The world junior champs -- or at least a good chunk with Lind, Thomas and lead Kyle Reynolds holdovers from last year's winning team -- are holding their own on the World Curling Tour.

They returned yesterday from the Skookum/WCT Yukon Cash Spiel in Whitehorse, where they went as far as the semifinals and collected cash to keep them high in the tour standings.

Sexsmith's Ron Chrenek beat them with the hammer in the 10th end of the 7-6 semi to end their assault on the Yukon title.

"Chrenek had a tough tap to win, and he made it," said Lind, 22, who watched Chrenek lose the final to B.C.'s Steve Waatainen.

"It was an event to do as a big road trip for us and get far away from home and have fun," Lind said. "We wanted to hang out together and not get too stressed by the curling. We'd like to have done a little better -- it was kind of a standard finish for us. But we are getting better."

In two larger WCT events earlier in the season, the Thomas rink lost quarter-finals to big-name curlers. The young locals were eliminated by Manitoba's Kerry Bertnyk at the stop in Brooks and were bounced by Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton in Lloydminster.

"We do feel those were big accomplishments," Lind said. "Those big rinks do know they can beat us. That's why we try to still put in a ton of practice time."

Meanwhile in juniors, the districts kick off the Alberta playdown season Friday in Hanna.

EXTRA ENDS

Seven of the 15 rinks competing at the districts in Hanna hail from the Calgary area, trying to follow in the Thomas rink's footsteps. They are Michael Hauer (Calgary Curling Club), Josh Stanley (Ogden Legion), Brad Chyz (Chestermere Curling Club), Kevin Yablonski (Calgary Winter Club/Springbank Curling Club), Reid Kimmett (Cochrane Curling Club), Trevor Slupski (Calgary Curling Club) and Brad Padbury (Garrison Curling Club).

LAST ROCK

The Grand Slam kicks off tomorrow in Quebec City with the 2007 BDO Classic Canadian Open. The event marks the first leg of the men's Capital One Grand Slam of Curling series, with the finals slated for Sunday on CBC (11 a.m.).


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