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North Bay curling team punches ticket to U-18 national championships

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A junior curling team from North Bay has punched its ticket to the 2024 Canadian U-18 Curling Championships in Ottawa this weekend.

Team Winters is tuning up for the competition, getting a few practice shots in.

“We’re pretty excited. Not too nervous, but just a bit,” said Team Winters alternate Aidan Baxter.

The team qualified when they finished as runners-up in the provincial championships in Longlac, Ont.

Riley Winters calls the shots as the team’s skip. His love of curling started when he was only five years old, picking up a broom and a rock.

“I started in Powassan on a two-sheet volunteer club. My dad and mom ran the junior program there,” Winters said.

“I started curling once a week when I was five to eight (years old). Then I came here because I wanted to be more competitive and be better.”

A junior curling team from North Bay has punched its ticket to the 2024 Canadian U-18 Curling Championships in Ottawa this weekend. Team Winters is tuning up for the competition, getting a few practice shots in. (Eric Taschner/CTV News)

The team is punching above its weight at the tournament, which runs Feb. 4-10. Four of the players are only 15 and the other is 17. At the national championships, the boys will be competing against players who are not only older but more experienced.

Head coach Steve Decary said he isn’t fazed.

“The boys have put in a lot of hard work in practise time and in the events to compete at that level,” Decary said.

“If they’re willing to put the time and effort in to do that, then they’ll have success.”

The team formed before the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the world. To date, they’ve played over 40 matches together.

“I’ve been curling with the team for two years. This is the third now,” said Team Winters lead Josh Dumoulin.

A junior curling team from North Bay has punched its ticket to the 2024 Canadian U-18 Curling Championships in Ottawa this weekend. Team Winters is tuning up for the competition, getting a few practice shots in. (Eric Taschner/CTV News)

“I’m generally throwing a lighter weight to set up the end so that it’s easier for my teammates to make their shots.”

The players have formed a nice bond, which is crucial in curling as communication is key.

“We’re all really similar. Three out of the five of us go to the same school. So we’re all really close,” said Baxter.

That friendship has helped push the team to achieve recent success, winning the U-15 championships in Dundas, Ont.

The curling team also competed in one of the qualifying events for the Ontario Winter Games in Timmins and won. By doing so, they qualified for the Ontario Winter Games in Thunder Bay from Feb. 16-26.

“We’re friends before teammates,” said Winters. “There are no conflicts.”

It’s a team made up of five friends who have learned from each other, continue to polish their curling skills while hoping for more opportunities to sweep the competition.

“I guess we play pretty well,” Winters said.

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Team Winters isn’t the only team from northern Ontario to qualify for the U-18 national championships.

Team Julien from Temiskaming Shores will also be playing. 

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