Putting together a competitive curling team from Vancouver Island can take some work.
Duncan’s Troy Cowan is one such team, which will take members from three different communities to the U21 provincial championships in Vernon starting Thursday.
In addition to Cowan at second, the team also includes Nanaimo’s Mack Ellis — who plays with Cowan in the Duncan Curling Club’s Monday night league on a team skipped by Nolan Reid — at third, and two members from Qualicum Beach: skip Jackson Marshall and lead Duncan Gallop.
The team is coached by Ladysmith’s Kelly Meikle, who also curls at the Duncan club and was responsible for recruiting Cowan at the start of the 2017-18 season.
“She saw me playing in the league on Monday and asked me to join,” Cowan recalled.
Cowan played fifth for the Marshall rink last year, then moved to second this year. The 17-year-old Cowichan Secondary student has been curling for five years, and concedes that the U21 provincials are probably the biggest event he has competed at, although he went to the mixed double provincials in Cranbrook last year with partner Kayla Wilson of Victoria, and the Canada Winter Games qualifiers on a team that also included Ellis.
The Marshall rink qualified for provincials by winning the A event at the open qualifier in Ashcroft earlier this month. They received a bye through the first round because they were ranked third at the end of the BC Junior Men’s Curling Tour, which meant they only needed to play two games, while some teams had to play as many as eight or nine.
“When you’re fresh, it makes it easier,” Cowan said.
Geography and scheduling provide challenges for the team, but they’ve made it work regardless.
“We try to have practice on weekends, but it’s hard,” Cowan said. “Me and Mack are in Grade 12 and one of the guys from Qualicum is at VIU, so we’re all busy.
“We definitely get along well. With a team of four, team communication and team bonding is really important. You can’t relate it to a hockey team with 30 kids or whatever. We do our best to make shots, but if somebody is off, the other three try to make up for it.”
Businesses across the Island have stepped up to help the team get to provincials, including Duncan Iron Works, Genoa Laser Therapy, Purica, Highway Rentals, Geotech, Panda Industrial, Runback, Hardline, Relic, Arrowsmith Moving, Swabbies, Marshall & Massey and Uncle Bruce.
Cowan and his team are all looking forward to the provincial tournament.
“We’re all pretty excited about it,” he said. “It should be a fun experience.”
The eight teams will play a round robin to begin the provincials, with the top four advancing to the semifinals. That’s where Cowan is hoping to take his team.
“I’d be really happy to make the playoffs,” he said.
After provincials, the Marshall rink will continue to play in the Wednesday cash league in Parksville, and Cowan and Ellis will keep playing on their Monday team in Duncan. Additionally, Cowan and Kayla Wilson are taking another shot at the B.C. mixed doubles, while Ellis is teamed up with Kayla’s sister, Sasha.
The U18 provincials are also coming up in March, with Island playdowns at Kerry Park on Feb. 8-10.