|Thumbs up for a great tournament. Photo © Team Facebook page|
19 Dec 2019 – Although disappointed by their last-stone, 5-4 quarterfinal loss to Denmark, the New Zealand Women's team were proud of their performance at the World Junior B championships in Finland this week.
They started their week with an encouraging first round win against Germany but then dropped three consecutive pool games, two of those on the last stone to Australia and Denmark respectively.
Needing to win both remaining matches on the last day of pool play to have any hope of playoff qualification, the Kiwis had a comprehensive win in the morning session and then faced Scotland in a winner-takes-all match for the last playoff spot.
New Zealand had last stone advantage as they went into final end against the Scots, with the scores tied at 3-3. NZ skip Courtney Smith's first stone was burnt (touched by a sweeper) so taken out of play, and Scotland seized the opportunity to draw their final stone into the shot position, partly buried behind a long guard.
With all other games finished, all eyes were on Courtney's second, the final shot of the game. Her gentle takeout came around the guard, knocked back her opponent's stone, and secured the match and the playoffs for the Kiwis.
In the quarter-final, Denmark scored three in the third end to make the early running. But from there the NZ Women gave them nothing, stealing the sixth and seventh end to hold a 4-3 lead heading into the eighth and final end. Despite NZ's best efforts, Danish skip drew her last stone in to score a second point for a 5-4 win to end the Kiwis' tournament.
Coach Dave Watt was full of praise for the team after the event. "Courtney led this team into the quarter-finals as a first-year skip. For the rest of the team, this is their first time on the ice at a World Junior B World Championship."
"I am proud to have witnessed this Team NZ compete hard and rightfully earn a spot in the playoffs. I am honoured to have had some input in this team, and have no doubt next year they will be better."
Japan, Latvia and Denmark went on to medal on the final day, and so qualified for the Women's draw of the 2020 World Junior Championships.
The NZ Junior Men did not compete at this tournament. They qualified for the 2019 World Junior Championships played earlier this year, and their 6th placing there requalified them for the 2020 Championship to be held in Krasnoyarsk, Russia in March.