It was their first bonspiel playing together as a team, but it might have been the most important in their young curling careers so far.
Penticton players Ryan Trip (third) and Zack Kuechle (second) and Summerland’s Matthew Lowery (skip) and Jacob Martin (lead) joined forces to earn the right to represent the zone at the B.C. Winter Games in Kamloops, Feb. 22 to 25.
“I was doubtful, but hopeful going in,” said Kuechle, a Grade 9 student at Penticton Secondary School. “We are younger than some of the teams that were there and we lost our first game because we missed quite a few draws, takeouts and just missing shots in general. We were quite tired and were just freaking out because we were at the qualifier.”
The Zone 2 qualifier in Kelowna last weekend was the first time this four-some had played together at an event.
“I was really happy with the way we performed together as a team. Most of the teams we were facing have been together for a year, if not more. I’ve known all the people on my team for quite awhile because we see each other at different bonspiels but it is always against each other,” said Kuechle. “We have only been a team for about a month.”
Losing to Kamloops 5-3 in their first game, the Lowery team shook it off and took the advice of their coach Brian Lyall (Kelowna) to relax, watch some of the other teams and clear their minds before the afternoon game.
Kuechle said they roared back into their next game beating a Kelowna team by seven points, 11-4. On the following day of competition they found themselves on the winning side again, defeating a team from the north Okanagan 10-3. This pushed them in the finals against a team from Oliver (skip Tyler Atunes, third Connor Mackey, second Owen Berokoff and lead Brandon Paetkau) where they earned their third win by a score of 9-4.
“It was a close game at the beginning, but then towards the end we scored a lot of points and they conceded,” said Kuechle.
Now in his six year of curling, along with his friend Trip who started at the same time, Kuechle said he is ready for all the excitement and fun participating in a big event like the B.C. Games will bring. Before that comes along, Kuechle has a few other duties in front of him.
“I am really excited for the Scotties. I am the ambassador for a team so I get to be with them all the time behind the scenes and when they are out playing. Basically, I will be morale support,” said Kuechle, who hopes to be paired up with Team B.C.
According to the B.C. Games records (which only date back to 2002), it is the first time in at least eight Winter Games (they are held every two years) that a boys curling team with players from the South Okanagan have qualified.
This is the first year that the B.C. Winter Games curling event will be for under-16 curlers. It was previously a under-17 event. Two teams were qualified in Zone 2 for the B.C. Winter Games. The Yamada rink, from Kamloops that defeated the Lowery team in their first game at the qualifier, will also represent the area. That team consists of skip Bryan Yamada, third Daniel Griffiths, second Nolan Bottineau, lead Alexander Landygo and coach Raymond Olsen. Two teams from Kamloops qualified on the girls side.
The Zone 2 teams will compete against six other zones in curling and be among the 2,000 athletes, coaches and officials from all over British Columbia in the 19 sports that make up the Games.