Alberta's Sluchinskis qualify for playoff round at mixed doubles curling nationals

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Fresh off a bittersweet Brier performance, Airdrie’s Aaron Sluchinski wanted more from this week’s national curling effort than he got from the high-profile one a fortnight ago in Regina.

That being at least a berth in the playoff round.

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And so he got that, alongside wife Amanda, Wednesday night at the 2024 Canadian Mixed Doubles Curling Championship in Fredericton, N.B.

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“It would have been hard to go to mixed doubles a couple of days after the Brier,” Sluchinski said. “A week after the Brier, it was the right amount of time to get turned around and get ready to play mixed doubles.

“I am definitely excited to play in it with Amanda.”

More excited now that they’re onto the playoff round — secured only after Wednesday’s action.

Although the Sluchinski-Sluchinski squad — representing Alberta as provincial champion — lost its final round-robin game to fall to 4-3 in the standings, the duo earned a spot to advance into the playoffs by virtue of a tiebreaker.

The Sluchinskis were one of three teams in Pool B action to keep moving forward with their adventure at the nationals.

Indeed, the playoff picture became clear Wednesday.

The duos of Laura Walker and Kirk Muyres, and Kadriana and Colton Lott, capped their preliminary rounds with 7-0 records to top their respective pools. They earned byes to Thursday evening’s quarterfinals.

Taylor Reese-Hansen and Corey Chester (6-1) and Paige Papley and Evan Van Amsterdam (5-2) also topped their pools to claim quarterfinal byes. Edmonton’s Papley was the lead for Alberta’s Selena Sturmay rink at the Scotties.

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The remaining eight teams to advance from the field of 32 were determined by records and last-shot draws to break ties.

They included Madison Kleiter and Rylan Kleiter, Steve Laycock and Nancy Martin — who topped Sluchinski and Sluchinski 7-5 late Wednesday — Andrea Kelly and Tyler Tardi and Calgary’s Jocelyn Peterman and Brett Gallant — all at 5-2.

The Sluchinskis, Jim Cotter and Jaelyn Cotter, Riley Sandham and Brendan Craig, and Lisa Weagle and John Epping all 4-3 also moved on to Thursday afternoon’s play-in round.

The husband-and-wife team of Brent Laing and Jennifer Jones, who have multiple Canadian and world titles between them in team curling, finished outside the playoffs with a 3-4 record.

Sunday’s winner represents Canada at the world mixed doubles championship April 20-27 in Ostersund, Sweden.

The national gold, silver and bronze medallists earn berths to Canada’s Olympic trials Dec. 30, 2024, to Jan. 4, 2025, in Liverpool, N.S.

Peterman and Gallant are experienced domestically and internationally having won national mixed doubles titles in 2016 and 2019 and a world silver medal in 2019.

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Walker, of Edmonton, and Muyres claimed a Canadian championship in 2018 and a bronze medal at the world championship that year.

The Lotts have twice been runner-up at the Canadian championship (2018, 2021).

Meanwhile, the Sluchinskis — who play Kelly and Tardi in their play-in draw at 8 a.m. — are looking for their first national medal, which would be sweet revenge after the up-and-down Brier experience for the family.

“We felt the pressure definitely in that first game of the opening draw,” added Sluchinski, recalling his Alberta-champion team’s maiden game — with vice-skip Jeremy Harty, second Kerr Drummond, lead Dylan Webster and coach Mickey Pendergast — at the Brier against fellow Albertan Kevin Koe, of the Calgary’s Glencoe Club. “You’re playing Kevin Koe in the feature game on TSN. It was nice that Koe kind of handed us that one, but we just didn’t get in the groove. If we can make it back there, we’ll just try to be better prepared for the ice conditions.”

“We didn’t put our best performance at the Brier, but it was a lot of fun.”

— With files from Postmedia news services

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