Mohawk looking to swap silver for gold

SAULT STE. MARIE. – Twenty-five teams representing 11 programs throughout the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association will meet in the Soo on Thursday through Sunday (Feb. 16-19) at the 2012 curling championships.

The event will be hosted by Sault College at the Soo Curlers Club. It marks the second time in three years the championship will take place in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

The most hotly contested title will be the women’s championship, with 10 teams competing. With defending gold medalist Algonquin not participating this year, a new champion will be crowned.

Hamilton’s Mohawk College earned a silver medal last year, and has a pair of returning veterans in Sarah McFarlane (St. Catharines) and Jennifer Montgomery (Waterdown) being led by first-year skip Sandy Toole (Cambridge). Christine Moore (Hamilton) rounds out the team. Mohawk won women’s gold in 2010.

Fanshawe was last season’s bronze medalist in the women’s competition. Returning players Yvonne Lalonde (Ajax.), Kaitlind Knipe (Owen Sound) and skip Chantel Lalonde (Ajax) make up the nucleus of the Falcons team, along with first-year player Cassie Savage (Listowel).

There will be hometown flair in the women’s division, with Algoma and Sault also competing. Algoma’s team is made up entirely of Sault Ste. Marie products Erika Warren, Lauren Wozny, Kathleen Thornburn and skip Jennifer Pearson. Sault College will be represented by a pair of Sault Ste. Marie natives in Jodie Gillespie and skip Jessica Merrifield, along with Kelly Gibson (Timmins) and Michelle MacLeod (Iroquois Falls).

Other women’s teams competing in the Soo include Confederation, Fleming-Lindsay, Fleming-Peterborough, Humber, Niagara and Seneca.

Fanshawe men’s skip Chris Jay (Point Edward) returns to the ice to defend last season’s gold medal. Jay will have a young squad of first-year curlers in Matt Cottrill (Belgrave) and Luke Grasby (London) along with third-year vice D.J. Ronaldson (Nipigon).

Fleming-Peterborough has won men’s team medals in each of the last three championships, including silver last year. The Knights will depend on first-year players Darin Armstrong (Lakefield), Richard Hooper (Whitby), Alex Jordan (Balderson) and Alex Elliott (Markham) to keep their medal streak alive. Fleming-Peterborough won back-to-back OCAA men’s team titles in 2009 and 2010.

Niagara has won medals in each of the last four seasons, but has been shut out of men’s team gold. Skip Brandon Halchuk (Hamilton) returns, and will lead first-year players Cody Smith (Gravenhurst) and Matt Service (Millgrove) along with second-year player Kyle Damiani (Newmarket) in an effort to break the championship drought.

Sault Ste. Marie will have a rooting interest in a Sault College team comprised of hometown curlers Mark Dugas, Stephane Beaulieu, Brett Punkari and Nick Dawson. All but Dawson are returning players.

Other schools competing in the men’s team competition are Confederation, Fleming-Lindsay, Humber, Mohawk and St. Clair.

Seneca is the reigning mixed team champions, with returning players Tameka Vaters (Richmond Hill) and skip Matt Lowe (Markham) back to defend their title. Seneca edged St. Clair in the mixed final last season, as Ryan Brook (Harrow), Alaina Frayne (Forest) and skip Graeme Robson (Kingsville) look to avenge their loss.

Sault College will depend on “imports” for their mixed team, with Jewel Sanftenberg (Espanola), Ryan Schnurr (Hamilton), Brianna Arthur (Hamilton) and skip Jordan Borneman (Parry Sound) filling its roster.

Other teams competing for an OCAA mixed banner include Fanshawe, Humber and Niagara. Humber makes its return to OCAA curling in 2012 following a lengthy absence.

As one of the original sports of the OCAA, this marks the 45th time collegiate curlers will compete for a provincial title. The sport makes its return to the national level next month, as Fleming-Peterborough plays host to the 2012 Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association Curling Invitational Championship.