By Gary Moskalyk, Special to CJ
Tanner Horgan capped off quite the adventure in the Thunder Bay area the past week and a half.
The 17-year-old Sudbury skip put up a three-spot in the ninth end against Thunder Bay’s Bryan Burgess to take the decisive lead en route to an 8-4 win at Port Arthur Curling Club Sunday, securing the third and final spot to advance to the Northern Ontario men’s championship next month.
Joining Horgan will be Thunder Bay’s Dylan Johnston and his foursome, along with Mike Assad’s Geraldton rink.
Earlier in the week, Horgan won the junior provincial crown at nearby Kakabeka Falls Curling Club. On Sunday, he won three clutch games — the first to force a three-way tiebreaker with Burgess and Sault Ste. Marie’s Chris Glibota — before knocking them out over the next two draws.
“To be honest, it was quite a long shot,” said Horgan, who started the day 3-3 needing a little luck to get a chance. “(Saturday), going into the game against Johnston we thought we had to win. We thought 3-3 would set us back. We were watching the line scores to wait and see who won. . . It is men’s. It’s really hard, especially to win two in a row like that. We pulled through. It was great.”
In the morning, Assad stole one in the eleventh end to defeat Burgess 9-8 to finish 5-1 in round robin play and advance to the eight-team provincials in North Bay. A
“We were very happy with this week, being from a small town like Geraldton. Our expectations weren’t too high, but we were pretty happy with where we finished,” said Assad. “We’ve got some time to hone our skills.”
Assad’s win sent Burgess into a three-way tie with Glibota and Horgan, all tied at 3-3. Glibota and Horgan played off at 1:00, the winner to take on Burgess in the 5:00 p.m. final.
Burgess started the day at 3-2. A win against Assad would have put his rink in the provincials at 4-2.
It didn’t happen.
The Assad rink counted three in the fifth end, building on a 3-1 lead to go up 6-1 at break. But the Burgess rink scored two in the 6th, three in the 8th and two in the 9th to take a 8-7 lead. With hammer rock, Assad scored one to tie it in the 10th, and then stole one in the 11th, to send the Horgan and Glibota rink into a one-game playoff, with the winner to play Burgess.
Horgan beat Glibota 6-4 to have the opportunity to play Burgess. Horgan and Burgess traded single points through eight ends. In the fifth, Burgess stole a point with his last shot with five Horgan rocks counting — a clutch shot at the time.
“We lost our legs,” said Burgess. “Just wasn’t there tonight. It was a long weekend. We haven’t played much this year. Playing seven games in three days was a lot for us.”
This event marked the first time a junior team was allowed to curl in the men’s event — an experiment likely to continue. The Horgan rink has three 17-year-olds and a 15-year-old.
“It proves that it was a good idea for a rule change,” said Horgan, the younger brother of former Ontario women’s curling champion Tracy Fleury. “If they make this rule and every junior team comes in and gets bombed and doesn’t have close games it’s like ‘what are we letting them in for?’ You get so much more experience playing these guys. It’s just a different type of game. I think it’s a great rule going forward.
“It feels great to know we can hold our own against these top teams.”
The Northern championship, the final step to the Tim Hortons Brier, begins Feb. 10 at the Granite Curling Club.
Timmins will host the Northern Ontario women’s curling championship, Jan. 20-24.