Hard Work Paying Dividends for Silvernagle Team

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Robyn Silvernagle and her North Battleford-based team are competing in the Humpty’s Champions Cup this week in Saskatoon. (Curling Canada/Andrew Klaver)

It seems like Robyn Silvernagle and her North Battleford-based team burst onto the national curling scene in the past couple of months. 

There was a bronze-medal finish at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Sydney, N.S., and losing in a semi-final at the prestigious Players’ Championship of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling earlier this month in Toronto. Those are eye-opening finishes, especially when the games are being seen on television screens from coast to coast to coast. 

Silvernagle doesn’t look at it that way.

 “To a lot of people, it may seem like we just jumped right in, but we have put in a lot of hard work and it’s beginning to pay off,” she said last week.

Silvernagle switched up her team this season, adding Stefanie Lawton at third and Jessie Hunkin at second. Kara Thevenot remained at the lead position.

“At the beginning of the year we struggled and weren’t performing as well as we knew we could. We knew we had to put in some work to get there.

“Having two new players on the team, we had to figure out how everyone works, how everyone throws, what everybody needs. We did a lot with our sports psychologist and coach to figure those things out.

“Things clicked and started working . . . I was able to read the girls’ throws a lot better and everything started working. We started peaking at that point and we kept getting better and better, and now here we are going into our third Grand Slam.”

The team qualified in the Canadian Open earlier in the season in North Battleford.

Silvernagle said she has been soaking in a lot of information from Lawton, who has skipped at the Scotties four times.

“She’s brought a lot to me as a skip. She brings a lot of calm to me, which is really good, and her knowledge has been amazing. She’s obviously a very good shotmaker and has played really well over the years. She’s helped out a lot, on and off the ice for sure.

“She knows how I feel through a game; she’s been in those situations so many times so she can relate and can help me be a better curler as well.”

Silvernagle will have home-province advantage at the Humpty’s Champions Cup, with the event being played at Merlis Belsher Place in Saskatoon from April 23-28. Fifteen of the top women’s and an equal number of the best men’s teams in the world will compete.

“We would like to win it, but qualifying in an event like this again would be awesome,” she said. “Our pool is tough and we have some good teams we have to play. We are still building, we are still learning and we’re still growing. I don’t know if that is ever complete; you’re always trying to strive to be better as the other the teams get better. We will definitely be taking lots from this week.”

Silvernagle will line up in a pool with Jennifer Jones, Anna Hasselborg, Allison Flaxey and Elena Stern. Eve Muirhead, who is certainly no slouch, will be skipping the Hasselborg team. Those are some toughies.

Eight of the 15 women’s and men’s teams will qualify for the championship round.

Among the women’s teams at the event are Canadian champion Chelsea Carey, Rachel Homan and Kerry Einarson, who won the recent Players’ Championship. 

Among the men’s teams are Kevin Koe, Brad Gushue, Brad Jacobs, Brendan Bottcher, who won the Players’ Championship, and Niklas Edin. Edin will miss the event, with his third, Oskar Eriksson, moving up to skip and Jim Cotter coming in to play third. The ever-colourful John Morris will be skipping John Shuster’s United States rink.

Saskatchewan will be represented on the men’s side by Kirk Muyres and Matt Dunstone. 

A new rule will be tested at the event. 

There will now be a “no tick” zone in the eighth end and extra ends. What that means is rocks touching the centre line in the free guard zone won’t be able to be moved by the shooting team.

A violation will mean placing the rock back or leaving it in its new position. That decision will be up to the skip whose team placed the rock on the centre line. 

The change is sure to add more excitement to the closing ends of a game. It will also frustrate leads who have honed this skill.

Meanwhile, Silvernagle said it will be fun playing in front of home-province crowd.

“Every curler loves being able to perform, make great shots and have people cheering for you. It’s kind of like you have much more motivation and support. We are excited and know it is our last event of the season. We hope to go out with a bang and have a ton of fun.”

Teams will be playing for a combined $250,000 purse. Sportsnet will be televising a big chunk of the event, beginning April 25 and running through the finals on April 28.

For more information, visit http://www.sportsnet.ca/ and http://www.thegrandslamofcurling.com/.