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Team Crough embraces detailed bid to become national junior curling champs

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Elysa Crough is the “nutrition cop.”

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Teammate Kim Bonneau is the “rock-book cop.”

And Quinn Prodaniuk and Julianna MacKenzie are on the beat in charge of spiel details and equipment, respectively. 

Together, they make up a new ‘force’ in curling circles — one the four young ladies hopes takes them to the world junior championships in a few months time.

“Our coach was a retired cop,” said skip Crough, referring to decorated curler Mark Johnson. “That’s kind of where all the discipline and planning and organization comes from. He named all the roles. We had to choose which one to take.

“He’s a phenomenal coach who’s provided us the guidance and support that we needed to do well.”

They will find out just how well beginning Monday in Saskatoon, where the foursome represents Alberta at Curling Canada’s New Holland World Juniors Qualifying Event .

And Team Crough truly does represent the province, with the skip herself a born-and-bred Calgarian, third Prodaniuk from Fort Saskatchewan, B.C. native and second Bonneau now based in Edmonton and lead MacKenzie from Cochrane.  

But being so spread out hasn’t kept them from success.

“We’ve gotten together as often as we possibly can for a team that’s not together in the same city,” said Crough, a graduate of Notre Dame High School and student at Mount Royal University. “We’ve put in a lot of work, and our coach has definitely taken us down the right path to do that.”

It began during COVID, with Johnson — the 2011 world senior curling champion — helping the rink come together despite limited time on the ice.

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“During our off-ice time during COVID, we had Zoom call meetings and we all kept each other accountable making sure we were doing our off-ice fitness and constantly checking in with each other to see how we were doing,” Crough continued. “And then we all got together in the summertime and our coach did a fitness test with all of us to make sure we were all keeping up with our end of the bargain with our fitness.

“Everything we did, we critiqued it — put it under a magnifying glass. We went through our strategy and created booklets. We had long conversations of our team strategy and how we would go about it and watched games together.”  

It led to victory at the Alberta provincial event last month in Airdrie, sending them to this event in Saskatchewan, where one men’s team and one women’s squad will be crowned champs and move on to the junior worlds, March 5-12 in Jönköping, Sweden.

The national event is a one-off intended to provide a short-term fix to a problem created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of the Canadian juniors in 2020. Teams play a five-game round robin that concludes Thursday, with playoffs slated for Friday and Saturday at Saskatoon’s Granite Curling Club.

Team Crough, based out of Edmonton’s Crestwood Curling Club, opens the event Monday evening against Saskatchewan’s Team Kleiter (6 p.m.).

“We’re going to go out there and play our hearts out,” added Crough, who is one of three aged-out juniors on the squad happy to get this chance after missing out in their final year of eligibility. “We definitely have goals, but as far as expectations, we’re going to go out there and have fun and play our hearts out and leave it all out on the ice. We know we’ve put the work in on and off the ice together as a team and as individuals. So we’ll go out there and play the way we can and play our game, and we’ll see what results come out at the end.

“It’d be pretty cool to play in Sweden.”

tsaelhof@postmedia.com

http://www.twitter.com/ToddSaelhofPM

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