Competing on home ice

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Saskatchewan skip Sara England chats with third Rachel Erickson during a game at the Art Hauser Centre last week.

With the Yukon being unable to field a team in the women’s event at the 2019 New Holland Canadian Juniors, it allowed the province of Saskatchewan to have a pair of rinks in Prince Albert from Jan. 19-27.

As a result, provincial champion Sara England and her rink from the Regina Callie got to wear the green jacket, while Skylar Ackerman’s team from Moose Jaw served as the Host Team.

Although both sides did not make it to the playoffs last weekend, the chance to play at home was one they won’t forget.

“Even though we didn’t play to our full capabilities, which was disappointing, it was still an awesome week,” England said. “The event was awesome and the crowds were amazing. The people here in Prince Albert were fantastic, which made for a memorable time here.”

“We were one of the younger teams here, so it was great for us to play against some of the best teams in the country,” Ackerman added. “It was disappointing that the results didn’t go our way, but there’s still a lot of years left ahead of us.”

Although England, who is the daughter of the late Sandra Schmirler, was making her third trip to the nationals, this marked the first trip for third Rachel Erickson, second Sarah Hoag and lead Jade Goebel.

“Sarah and I had to the chance to compete at the Under-18’s a couple of years ago in Moncton, which prepares you quite well for an event like this,” Erickson said.

“There’s a lot more intensity when you come to the juniors, even when you are off the ice. There’s a lot more focus on what you need to do in order to improve for the next game and you are always talking about curling.”

On their way to a 5-5 finish in the Championship Pool, England changed her approach over the course of the week as she embraced the raucous atmosphere that came when Saskatchewan was on the ice.

“You can’t be scared by it,” said England, who made the second all-star team in the women’s event.

“You know the crowd is going to get loud and that means your making shots. After I used that as a positive, I think it really allowed me to be play better.”

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald
Host Team skip Skylar Ackerman gives instructions to her teammates during the 2019 New Holland Canadian Juniors last week.

As for the Ackerman rink, which featured Madison Johnson at third, Chantel Hoag at second and first team all-star Samantha McLaren at lead, they held their own against the top teams in the country despite finishing with a 2-7 record.

“There’s definitely a lot that we can take away from this week,” Ackerman said. “When you go up against the top teams like an Alberta or a Nova Scotia, they will take advantage of any mistakes that you make.

“The biggest thing is to not get discouraged. You are going to learn a lot from playing those teams and hopefully have a chance to play them again in the future.”

All four players, who won a silver medal at the Under-18 nationals last year, will now prepare to represent Saskatchewan at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer later this month.

England and Hoag are representing the Regina Cougars at the Canada West playdowns this weekend in Edmonton.

The entire Ackerman rink is eligible for junior play next season, while Hoag and Erickson can both defend their provincial title.