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Rustlers now prepare for curling nationals

Lakeland hosted a successful ACAC curling championships that didn’t include a medal for the Rustlers, but did provide a sport, and life lesson, about refocusing for the next challenge.

Where there is ice in sport, there is always a chance of a fall. In figure skating, there’s a deduction of points. In curling, a slip and fall is occasional and often doesn’t have any consequences. Last weekend as the Rustlers mixed team battled Red Deer College for a spot in the gold medal game, there were.

Branden Cookson throwing a curling rockSkip Branden Cookson slipped as he went out to help sweep a rock and hit his head on the ice. Play halted for a time, and Cookson eventually went to the hospital to be checked out for a concussion. The teams played one more end, before Lakeland shook hands with their opponents giving Red Deer the ticket to the gold medal game.

Cookson wasn’t able to play in the bronze medal game, and the Rustlers didn’t have an eligible spare. Two of the men’s team members were on hand helping with the competition, but because they are a skip and third, they weren’t permitted to be substitutes. Nor was the team able to play with just three members.

“It was disappointing for our team and coaches, and the MacEwan team would have preferred to win on the ice instead of by forfeit,” says Rustlers athletic director Alan Rogan. “I’m proud of how our players and coaches handled the situation.”

“I told them that this didn’t negate all that they’d accomplished this season,” says Lindsay Makichuk, assistant coach. The team finished second during the regional competition. Cookson, a veteran Rustler curler, moved from the men’s team to the mixed team and the rest of the rink were all ACAC rookies.

Now, says Makichuk, all the players are re-focusing on the national championships. They will start practicing and head to Camrose for the CCAA competition March 21-25.

Ontario and Alberta are the only conferences sending teams to nationals, so the ACAC is able to fill 5 spots in the men’s and women’s divisions. all the ACAC championship curlers and coaches posed at the end of their championships

For the Rustlers, that’s meant that the mixed team players will join the men’s and women’s teams as alternates for the national championships.

“We knew going into the ACAC championships that our curlers would be curling again,” says Rogan. “For our mixed team, this chance to extend their season is especially gratifying. And, with sport, anything can happen. We just saw that in the provincial volleyball championships where our women’s team claimed gold.”

Photo: Top - Branden Cookson throwing his skip rocks early in the ACAC championships. Hopes are high he will be able to compete at the nationals in Camrose later in March. Bottom - Curling's camaraderie was captured in the group photo of the teams and their coaches at the 2017 ACAC championships in Vermilion.

See photos for the entire championships on Flickr.

February 27, 2017

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