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Freeman ends season at nationals

Virden’s Jace Freeman capped a successful and busy curling season playing against the best U18 teams in the country.

Virden’s Jace Freeman capped a successful and busy curling season playing against the best U18 teams in the country.

The son of Roxanne and Graham Freeman played third for the Manitoba champions, Team McDonald, at the Canadian U18 Curling Championship in Oakville, Ont. May 1-7. The rink went 4-2 in pool play and placed sixth overall.

“I would say the thing I enjoyed the most about nationals was playing and meeting lots of new, highly competitive teams from all over the country and making many new friends,” Freeman said.

Competing against the nation’s best wrapped up a jam-packed curling season for the local teen. He played at provincial championships with four different rinks. At the high school provincials, he skipped his Virden Collegiate Institute team to a second-place finish. As well, Freeman was the skip for his junior rink and played third for the McDonald rink in U18 action. At the Viterra Championships, the men’s provincials, he was the second on a team that included his father and brother, Brooks, as well as lead Dwayne Barkley and fifth Kevin Barkley.

Team McDonald started well at the U18 nationals with a 7-2 victory over Newfoundland and Labrador 2. After conceding 8-1 to Alberta 2 and falling 4-3 to Newfoundland and Labrador 1, the rink got on a roll. It blanked Ontario 2, 5-0, and downed Northwest Territories, 8-7, before beating Ontario 1, 5-4. Skip Jordon McDonald praised Freeman for curling 95 per cent in that final pool game, which wrapped up a playoff berth. In the quarterfinals, Team McDonald lost, 5-4, on an impressive draw by the skip for Saskatchewan 1. The rink dropped its final game to Alberta 1, 6-4.

“Although we fell short of our main goal of winning, Jace was a huge part in achieving one of our goals - which was making playoffs,” McDonald said. “His knowledge of the game and the ice helped me out in seeing the shots and being confident with what the ice was doing and as a skip, that information is very crucial to have.”

Freeman said the calibre of play at nationals was very solid.

“It was one of the strongest fields I’ve ever played in,” he said. “Any misses we had proved to be much more costly because the teams consistently made so many shots.”

After competing against each other many times in the junior ranks, Freeman and McDonald started talking in April of 2021 about putting a U18 rink together.

“We thought that it would be a good idea to team up and not have to play each other at the Under-18 level,” Freeman said.

Based out of the Deer Lodge Curling Club in Winnipeg, the team included Winnipeggers McDonald and lead Cam Olafson as well as second Elias Huminicki, who hails from Winnipeg Beach. Freeman said he practiced a fair amount with the rink and competed in four bonspiels with them.

“Jace was a great teammate and a very fierce competitor,” McDonald said. “I really liked the passion and drive to win that he brought to the team. He is an amazing shot maker and there were many instances where Jace made a great shot to set up a big score or get us out of trouble.”