Sports Curling

Crocker and Walker hope so

Olympic rings before wedding rings?

Geoff Walker and Laura Crocker at Canadian trials on Jan. 4, 2018. (Photo courtesy Winnipeg Sun/MICHAEL BURNS)

Geoff Walker and Laura Crocker at Canadian trials on Jan. 4, 2018. (Photo courtesy Winnipeg Sun/MICHAEL BURNS)

Ted Wyman - Winnipeg Sun
Laura Crocker and Geoff Walker wouldn’t mind taking a honeymoon before their wedding.
“In South Korea … that would be nice,” Walker said Thursday at the Canadian Olympic mixed doubles curling trials.

“That’s the plan,” Crocker added.

The couple will get married in Mexico in May.

“Don’t even ask Geoff about planning the wedding,” Crocker laughed. “He won’t know what to answer.”

Wedding plans aren’t exactly at the forefront for the couple, anyway. Not when they are competing together and excelling at trials.

Should they win it all in the 18-team event, they’ll represent Canada at the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang next month.

Crocker, who hails from Edmonton, and Walker, who is from Alberta but lives in St. John’s N.L., clinched first place in Pool B Thursday with a 9-6 win over Dana Ferguson and Brendan Bottcher of Edmonton. Both teams were 6-0 heading into the matchup but it was Crocker and Walker who kept the perfect record intact.

They’ll be a top seed in the eight-team, double-knockout playoff round that starts Friday at Stride Place.

“It’s a really cool experience to do this together,” Crocker said. “Win or lose, to be playing with each other is a pretty special experience. I’m pretty lucky having Geoff as a partner. He’s a nice, calm, cool, collected partner and it keeps me grounded out there. It works well as a partnership.”

They are not the only couple having success this week.

Jocelyn Peterman of Calgary and Brett Gallant of St. John’s clinched first place in Pool A, running their record to 7-0 with a 7-2 win over Sherry Just and Tyler Griffith.

Partners on and off the ice, Peterman and Gallant have been finding success for a few years already in the mixed doubles events.

They won the 2016 Canadian mixed doubles championship, beating Crocker and Walker in the final.

“As a couple, we get to practice a little bit more together than some might,” Gallant said. “This is our third season together but I had never played a game of mixed doubles before and we played the Canadian championship two years ago and we won that.

“We had a lot of success right off the bat. We weren’t really sure what the key to it was at the start. Over playing quite a few games together I think we realize what works for us and what doesn’t. We’ve just been trying to stick to the same kind of gameplan.”

Interestingly, Gallant (second) and Walker (lead) are regularly teammates on Brad Gushue’s St. John’s foursome that won the world men’s championship last April.

So, what is it about the front-enders from the Newfoundland foursome that they have so much success in mixed doubles?

“Good partners,” Peterman said with a laugh.

“Yeah, good partners,” Gallant added smartly.

Gushue and his third Mark Nichols are also still in the tournament — Nichols and Jennifer Jones have clinched at least a tiebreaker with a 5-2 record, while Gushue and Val Sweeting were sitting at 4-2 heading into the afternoon and evening draws.

Jones and Nichols fell behind 5-1 to Dawn and Mike McEwen in an important game on Thursday afternoon but stormed back to score five points in the final three ends and win 9-6.

“That’s why I love the format so much … you are never out of it,” Jones said. “Even when you are up, you’re always needing to make some big shots.

“Our goal at the beginning of the week was to make the playoffs and especially since we haven’t played mixed doubles together in a few years, we wanted to work out the kinks and I think we’ve done that.”

The only other team that had clinched a playoff spot with three round-robin draws remaining was Bottcher and Ferguson (6-1).

Joining Jones and Nichols in nailing down at least tiebreaker spots were Jill Officer and Reid Carruthers (5-2) and Nancy Martin and Catlin Schneider (5-3). There were still five other teams in the mix for playoff spots as the later draws got underway.

Carruthers won the Canadian mixed doubles championship last year with Joanne Courtney and won the silver medal at the worlds. He picked up Officer when Courtney qualified for the Olympics as a member of Rachel Homan’s women’s team.

“Reid is definitely the leader and I think that’s why our dynamic works well,” said Officer, who won a gold medal in women’s curling at the 2014 Olympics.

“He just takes charge. He’s normally a skip and I’m normally a front-ender and it just works well for us.”
As for the unbeaten teams, this is no time to let their feet off the gas pedal.

“You don’t want to let down at any time,” Walker said. “We had the playoff spot locked up before today but we still wanted to come in and win today. You want to keep the momentum going.” 

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