Queen’s wins bronze at curling championships

Two in the ninth end make for 7-5 win over McMaster

Queen's took to the ice at the Leon's Centre during the Tim Horton's Brier to prepare for the U SPORTS Championships.

The disinfectant on the handles didn’t do anything to throw off Queen’s curlers, as the women came through in the clutch to snatch the U SPORTS bronze from McMaster.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, men’s and women’s U SPORTS hockey and volleyball championships were cancelled. However, in tiny Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, where there were no confirmed cases, the best Canadian university curlers curled on under a storm of uncertainty.

When the Queen’s delegation left from Kingston, coronavirus was looming, but classes and other U SPORTS events hadn’t been cancelled. But as their round-robin play began, Canada started to enter a period of lockdown.

“With everything shutting down, I think we were all kind of waiting to hear if we were going to get shut down,” said skip Mary Fay in a phone interview with The Journal. “If they had decided to do that, we definitely would have been disappointed but we would have understood because safety first. 

“There was hand sanitizer everywhere,” said lead Kenna Bartlett, who was named a first team All-Canadian for her efforts in the tournament.

Their banquet was cancelled, Head Coach Scott Davey wiped down all of the rocks, and all handshakes were suspended indefinitely, but the games went on. “We were very grateful that we got to continue,” said Bartlett.

“We kind of felt like we were in a bit of a bubble, because we were in a small town that there weren't a whole lot of people in, and in curling, there's not very many players [...] so there [weren’t] that many people there.”

The Gaels went 5-2 in the round robin, including an 8-5 win over the eventual champions, the Alberta Pandas. The University of New Brunswick got the better of Queen’s in the semifinal, though, coming away with a 5-3 win.

The bronze medal game went down to the wire—with the score tied 5-5 in the penultimate end, Queen’s landed two, and then held McMaster University scoreless in the final stanza to take the game 7-5.

The bronze was sweet retribution for the Gaels, since the Marauders had beaten them 6-5 in the round robin and 7-5 in the OUA Championships just last month.

“I think it's always nice to end on a high note, even though it wasn't the game that we wanted to be in,” Bartlett said. “Obviously, we want to be in the final game, but it was nice to finally get a win over McMaster.” 

“It’s not every day that you get to play on the national level, and we just wanted to make the most of every moment, and I think it was just a really good game to end our season on,” concurred Fay.

Queen’s third Michaela Roberts was named a second team All-Canadian, and Fay was given the R.W. Pugh Award for being judged as the most sportsmanlike by her fellow athletes. 

The players came back from Manitoba to a Queen’s campus that’s only barely missing tumbleweeds. For a close-knit team that’s gone to nationals two years in a row, this is an odd way to end things.

Second Sarah Throop is graduating, and Fay isn’t sure whether she’s coming back next season, either. 

“It’s bittersweet,” said Fay.

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