2017 Arena Nationals In Retrospective
Honestly, this was one of the most amazing weeks in my curling life. We didn't win the gold or any medal for that matter, but at the end of the week both Curl Troy teams were in contention to make the playoffs and by the end of the tournament had the respect of all of our competitors. The week started on Tuesday evening with a warm welcome reception from USCA and a chance to watch a couple of the women's draws. An early morning on Wednesday brought on a practice which none of our players had ever experienced. 30 minutes of practice divided among each of the 5 sheets. It was an interesting chance to get a feel for each sheet and how the stones were behaving as well. 6 minutes on each sheet went by pretty quick. Definitely not enough time to really understand everything you needed to know with the ice and the stones. 30 minutes total for the practice was over before you knew it and at the end pretty much all of our team was pretty tired. It's a game of speed curling during a 30-minute practice across 5 sheets. It is definitely the most fast paced curling experience I have ever experienced. USCA brought in Kevin Madsen, their Head Arena Ice Maker, and supplied stones for the event. The stones were good stones but weren't a championship set, so there was some getting used to how they each played.
Our first game on Wednesday was against Houston, the eventual winner, right after the opening ceremony. It felt a little like getting thrown into the fire. While we had been able to watch several women's draws we definitely struggled to get a handle on the ice during our first game. In the long run Houston was a pretty stiff opponent and we would have had to play exceptionally well to beat them, but we weren't 100% during that game. It was a good game and we did hold our own, but the biggest takeaway was that these were some great friends that we spent time with the rest of the week. We were happy to cheer them on all the way to their gold medal.
Our second game went much better and resulted in a win against St. Louis 1, but I still felt that we had some room for improvement in our game. The ice was challenging, and during most of the first few days created a significant hitting game. When the ice plays pretty straight it is hard to get anything behind cover, and if you can't get behind cover then the best hitting team will likely succeed. We started to have a lot of fun during this game, and anytime you walk away with a mark in the win column you should be happy. I think in this game we played well, and at a level we should be proud of. In the end though these guys were great to spend time with we had some great discussions that remind you you aren't alone with the struggles of arena curling.
Our third game we knew would be a difficult one. We without a doubt did not go into this game underrating our opponent. Wine Country was clearly one of the favorites in the tournament and had pretty much been lights out all week (both the men's and women's teams). That may have gotten into our head a bit. Not sure if we just tried too hard or set the bar too high and struggled to reach the goal, but we definitely weren't playing to our strengths. It just didn't seem like anything was working out no matter what we through. Again though great friends made here and we were able to watch some other games with these guys despite not getting a good broom stacking chance.
Our final game was against Palmetto Curling Club and this team was on a bit of a roll when we played them. They had given Wine Country a run for their money and beat St. Louis the day before. In the end though this was our best game, and we hit a lot of shots. We played better than in any other game, and I think the way we were playing we would have given any team in the tournament a run for their money. These guys were also a lot of fun to hang with and they had some Dayton connections. Hopefully, we see Sharky one night at RiverScape while he is in town.
Perhaps the most unique part of the event was the Draw Shot Challenge. The DSC involved each team throwing 2 draws to the button before each game. Each one had a different turn and each player had to throw one stone of each turn during the tournament. After each stone measurements were taken and the team with the smallest distance earned the hammer for their game. Our team didn't fare well with the DSC, but we did win the hammer in one of our games, and we did improve as the tournament went on. The DSC results were used to seed the playoffs, as well as determine advantages like hammer and stone choice in the playoffs, and would have also been used in eliminations if there was a three way tie. This is an important part of the game that we just weren't ready for
The big takeaway is that we are no different than the other arena clubs. We all face the same issues, and many face more issues than we do.
If you want to check out the stats from the event Curling Zone published everything from the event here.