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All eyes on Swan River for nail biting finish

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At the Canadian Mixed Curling Championships, held last week in Swan River from Nov. 12-18, all eyes in attendance were focused on the final few ends of the championship game between Team Anderson from Ontario and Team Desjardins from Quebec.
Ontario went to the final match-up with nine wins and two losses, against the undefeated Quebec team who had won all 11 of their previous matches in the week. In a major upset, Ontario pulled away with a 7-3 victory for Canadian gold, and the ticket to represent Canada at the World Mixed Curling Championships, to be held next fall at a yet-to-be-announced location.
Quebec opened up the scoring with a deuce in the first end, in which they had last rock. After trading points back and forth, with a couple of blank ends, both teams were tied 3-3 in the sixth end. Ontario snagged the lead in the seventh, and clinched the win in the eighth with three more stones in the house.
“It’s awesome (to be crowned the Canadian champions),” said Ontario Skip Mike Anderson. “It’s what we came here to do.”
Ontario’s undefeated streak of the week ended by the close of the first day, losing to Team Buchy of British Columbia. They lost the glamour of being on top early on in the competition – with the list of undefeated teams slowly dwindling to eventually only Robert Desjardin’s crew. But, Ontario was consistent with nabbing the wins draw after draw on Day Two and beyond, with the only other loss coming when Ontario faced Quebec for the first time during Friday night’s draw – the last game of the round-robin that would seed Quebec at the number one spot.
“We got better in each game, which was critical for us,” said Anderson. “What really helped us out was when we played Quebec (Friday) night, in a super close game. Robert (Desjardins) made a fantastic shot to win the game, so we knew we weren’t out of anybody’s league.
“We were very confident going in, but we knew it was going to be a very patient game. They play a very defensive style, and that’s not necessarily the way we like to play, but we knew we’d get our opportunities.”
Anderson knows that he and his team will be prepared to represent Canada on the world stage when the time comes around.
Anderson and his vice-skip, Danielle Inglis, have had the privilege of playing at that level earlier in their curling career, when they represented Canada at the university level.
“We have a flavour for what it’s like, the pressure, and how everybody looks at Canada in the curling world,” said Anderson. “(Second and lead) Sean and Lauren (Harrison) have both played big events as well, so it won’t matter that at the end of the day, you’re still just curling, no matter what shirt you’re wearing. As long as we keep that mindset, I like our chances.”
Even though he admitted in a speech during the closing banquet that he had to Google the location of Swan River before he came here, he couldn’t say enough about the quality of the host event and the volunteers that took care of everybody during their stay.
“Everything was super well organized, we knew when things were happening, where things were happening, so it took all that stress off of us and let us focus on what we were here to do,” said Anderson. “It was fantastic to be out here.”
Team Manitoba Skip Dean Dunstone had similar sentiments for the Manitoba-hosted event.
“Everybody I talked to had a great time,” he said. “(The hospitality) was definitely a highlight for us, and I think a lot of the competitors can say the same thing.”
Team Manitoba didn’t finish in the Championship Pool of the top eight teams, but they did manage a 3-6 record against the other top mixed teams in Canada.
“(The level of competition) was pretty high,” said Dunstone. “Most of the players were younger than us, but overall the level of play was fairly high.
“For me and another member, it was our first time representing Manitoba. I didn’t realize the pressure of throwing that buffalo in the back. We just weren’t ourselves and sometimes, it’s too late in the week before you realize it.”
Organizing Committee Chair Murray Mullin was on top of the world all week long, after the 18 long months planning since it was first announced that Swan River was going to host a national curling event.
“We had an absolutely fantastic week,” he said. “Everything couldn’t have been any better.
“The events we had, along with the curling, were well attended. The curlers and out-of-town guests were treated well by the Swan Valley and to have a final game like we did, coming out at last rock, it could have gone either way, and it finished off the week well.”
Mullin is a former competitor and a long-time curling fan, and the icing on the cake that was the success of the event was a literal cake for his 60th birthday, which took place on Friday.
Mullin joked during a speech during the closing banquet how nice it was to have this curling event in honour of his milestone birthday, and to have more than 200 of his friends coming to join the party.

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Jeremy Bergen
REPORTER
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