The Junior Men’s curling team from the Beaver Valley Curling Club qualified for the provincials last weekend in Castlegar with decisive victories over a Grand Forks foursome at the Kootenay curling playdowns.
The Beaver Valley rink skipped by Justin Umpherville, 19, with third Spenser Soukeroff, 19, second Kasey O’Hara, 15, and lead Zack Howes, 19, won handily over the Bartlett squad with 10-4 and 13-5 wins on Saturday.
In the first match, Bartlett struck first in the opening end to go up 1-0 but Umpherville replied with three in the second, and stole two in the next end to take a commanding 5-1 lead.
Umpherville kept it pretty open from then on ceding a single point in the fourth before scoring one and stealing one in the fifth and sixth ends. Bartlett would close the gap to 7-4 with a deuce in the seventh but Umpherville responded scoring one in the eighth and closing out the match with a steal of two in the ninth end.
In the second game of the best-of-three match up, Umpherville again spotted Bartlett a 1-0 lead before scoring two, then stealing two to make it 4-1 after three ends. The Grand Forks team would battle back with two of their own in the fourth end to cut the lead to one, but a huge four-ender from the B.V. Skip in the fifth sealed it as they swept their way to the 13-5 victory.
“It was good, they did play well,” said coach Terry Bublitz. “We got a new guy, Zack, and he just amazed me.”
Howes joined the team just weeks ago and made an immediate impression on the front end. Bublitz has been coaching Umpherville and Soukeroff since they were kids, and the 15-year-old O’Hara is as skilled as they come in local curling circles, with tons of potential.
Bublitz, a Trail native, has been involved in junior curling for close to 30 years, and has coached at dozens of provincial and regional playdowns in high-school, juvenile, and junior women and men’s curling.
The team prepared the past month by playing in the Beaver Valley Men’s Curling club, with additional practices when they could find open ice.
“We practiced in Castlegar and we practiced in Fruitvale, but it is kind of early in the season, you really can’t get into a lot of stuff and right away it’s the playdowns,” added Bublitz.
Now that the junior team has secured it’s berth in the B.C.’s, they will get all the ice time they need at the B.V. rink to hone their game.
The Kootenay team will play against seven other rinks for the opportunity to advance to the Canadian championships. If their result at playdowns is any indication, look for them to perform well at the provincial tournament Dec. 26-30 at the Chilliwack Curling Club.
“They are curling really well . . . they’ve really pulled together, and they’re actually surprising a lot of people on how well they do,” said Umpherville’s mom, Jeannie Parker.
The only unfortunate aspect of the tournament is that Bublitz and the team will be traveling Christmas Day in order to make their opening match on Boxing Day. In the meantime friends and family will be working hard to help cover expenses for the crew, as Curl BC requires each team to have matching uniforms and jackets, and hotel rooms on the Lower Mainland over the holidays are prohibitively expensive.
“We told the boys, if they make it to the end, we’ll all jump in a vehicle to make it for the one day,” added Parker. “It’s such a hard time to go, with everyone so busy with family and Christmas.”
Despite the scheduling, curling fans can follow their progress on the Curl BC website and if everything goes well, watch the boys compete on TV as the final of the 2014 Tim Horton B.C. Junior Curling championship will be broadcast on Sportsnet.
Meanwhile, residents can help the team by supporting its fundraising efforts starting this Saturday with a bake sale at Ferraro Foods. Look for upcoming fundraisers and donation jars at Ferraro’s, Liberty Foods, and other local businesses to help the team with travel expenses.