We will rock you.
Definitely a fitting theme song for this young team of local curlers but it’s also a message to opponents at the upcoming B.C. Winter Games.
The teens and their 68-year-old rookie coach, Brian Lyall of Kelowna, have only been together for three months but are already making a name for themselves on Okanagan ice sheets.
Made up of Penticton players Ryan Trip (third) and Zack Kuechle (second) and Summerland’s Matthew Lowery (skip) and Jacob Martin (lead) the team’s very first event together was actually the Zone 2 U16 Winter Games qualifying bonspiel in Kelowna last month.
“The only reason we came together was because we were the only ones in this area that wanted to try and make it,” said Kuechle, a Grade 9 student at Penticton Secondary. “I was doubtful but hopeful going in and when we won, well, I wasn’t surprised but I know our parents sure were.”
Kuechle, described by his coach as the team’s “spark plug,” and his rink got off to a rocky start, losing their first match of the double knock out event 5-3 to Kamloops.
“We were quite tired and were just freaking out because we were at the qualifier,” he remembered.
After regrouping and with some advice from the coach, they rose to the challenge and went on to win the next three games, all by decisive margins and scoring that second and final spot in the Games, which go Feb. 22-25.
“There’s just nothing stopping them from getting better. I mean, some of the shots to win the playdowns in Kelowna were mind boggling. I wouldn’t have tried them,” said Lyall, who first heard the kids were looking for a mentor from a Kelowna Secondary School coach.
Lyall recalled one of those mouth dropping shots: “The other team had a rock buried and he (Lowery) did a double run back, hit the opponent’s yellow rock out of the way and he did it with the around the horn. There were three of our rocks in the house and he went tick, tick tick and spread them out and so we were lying four under cover.
“The other team’s skip, he turned and looked at his coach through the glass, and his eyes were like dinner plates and his mouth was moving and he was trying to say time out but he couldn’t get it out, and he didn’t know what to do next.”
While the team members did sort of know each other from previous competitions, there did need to be some work on things like on-ice communication.
“They’re an unlikely combination of personalities. They’re four very different guys and it’s hard to tell with kids sometimes, they’re so high energy, but these ones are a pretty talented bunch and they’re very receptive and smart kids,” said Lyall, who looks forward to building the next generation in curling. “Matt is pretty quiet and serious but he can be fun if he wants to. Ryan Trip, serious kid, very conscientious, very thoughtful about every shot. Zack is the energy of the team. Jacob, the lead, very quietly goes about his business and he’s very consistent.
“They are not to be taken lightly and I think they will surprise a lot of people. Anybody who beats these kids is really going to have to bring their A game.”
While there may be more than a half century difference in age, neither coach nor players believe there is a generation gap.
“I’ve never tried to act my age,” laughed the father of two. “The kids obviously were raised in a different time, they listen to different music, but these four guys are pretty perceptive. They’re well-raised, respectful, well mannered.
“And the other thing, if I can’t talk to kids, doing what I do, then it’s time to hang up my shoes.”
Added Kuechle: “He is (Lyall) great and it’s a lot of fun. Our coach is really good at teaching us stuff and he brought us together as a team and this (Winter Games) is going to be a lot of fun.”
And who knows?
If the rocks align in Kamloops they way they very well might, the team’s new theme song may also be another Queen favourite, maybe something like, We are the Champions.