Despite all the weight that accompanies a big home ice game, the inaugural match of a provincial championship, and teenage angst, Team Habkirk demonstrated icy calm when it mattered most on Wednesday.
The Coquitlam rink launched the 2013 Tim Hortons B.C. junior boys curling championships at the Poirier Sports Complex with a dramatic 9-8 victory over Victoria's Team de Jong.
A little history between the two rinks added a frosty layer to the opening draw, seeing as they had a good battle at the provincial playdowns last month in Comox. That 8-5 loss - where de Jong scored three points in the ninth to break a 5-5 tie - provided a little extra feeling entering Wednesday's crucial opener.
"In Comox we didn't do very well against them and lost big-time," recalled lead Kento Sato. "This game we got to come back and win in a close game, so we're very happy."
Although that playdown was closer than the final score indicated, with Coquitlam leading 3-2 and tied 5-5 after eight ends, the loss provided a lesson, and incentive.
Down 5-2 Wednesday after six ends, the home team parlayed some skillful rock throwing and a missed shot by the de Jong team to draw even after seven ends. They traded leads and benefited from a missed shot by the Victoria team in the ninth to steal three and go up 8-7. But skip Kyle Habkirk flashed on a takeout attempt, and de Jong tied it to force an extra end.
Then came redemption, along with the hammer. Late in the extra end and with a pair of Victoria rocks sat near the back four, Habkirk delivered a double takeout to score the winning point.
"It was obvious what we needed to do so we sat down and did it, but our hearts were pounding. It was tough," said Habkirk.
Nervous? Sure - but in the end the Coquitlam foursome emerged with momentum from their provincial championship debut. They matched it later in the day by topping Team Tardi of Langley 9-6. They sat 3-0 after besting Kelowna's Emslie rink with a 10-8 come-from-behind victory on Thursday.
An impressive start for one of the youngest teams in the competition.
"Yeah, I was a lot nervous because this was our first game and especially in the last end because everyone was watching," noted Sato of the opener. "My knees were shaking a lot, too."
The team, coached by Debbie Carroll, features three Grade 10s - third Nicholas Umbach, second Ryan Harbrink and Sato - and Gr. 11 Habkirk. All attend Centennial Secondary. With Harbrink joining the ranks officially this year, the club has experienced the usual challenges of a teenage crew. But they enjoy playing together and are finding chemistry can equal on-ice results, too.
"We're pretty close, we usually see each other outside of curling and we hang out a fair bit. We're good buddies," said Habkirk.
The quartet have even expanded their playing time to include underwater hockey.
"It's something we picked up from my lead, Kento. He's been playing it for quite a while, he basically pulled us into it and to try it," noted the skip.
"We've been playing it ever since. It's a lot of leg work, so it really helps strengthen your legs for long tournaments."
The goal this week is to continue improving while leaving a positive impression. Oh yeah, and win.
"We're here to win. We know we don't have the greatest chance but we're still going to play our hardest to go as far as we can," said Habkirk.
The tournament, which includes the junior girls championships, runs all weekend at the Coquitlam Curling Club. The finals are slated for Sunday - the girls at 3 p.m., and the boys at 7 p.m.