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Ottawa at the Olympics Day 12: Hockey going strong, curlers on the brink

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Ottawa at the Olympics Day 12 Recap: Canada cruises through final men’s hockey preliminary round contest, faces tougher climb to playoffs in women’s curling

By Dan Plouffe & Martin Cleary (This article was first sent to subscribers of the Ottawa at the Olympics Daily Newsletter. Sign up to receive it, for free, here.)

Ottawa’s curlers and hockey players experienced opposite emotions today at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Team Canada men’s hockey players Mason McTavish and Eric O’Dell had a pretty easy day at the rink with their 5-0 win over China, while the playoff prospects of women’s curlers Dawn McEwen and Lisa Weagle took a hit with an 8-4 loss to Switzerland.

Let’s start with the good news. O’Dell scored Canada’s third goal within the first 10 minutes of their final preliminary round game against the host nation, and cruised on to a 5-0 victory in what served as a preview of their upcoming elimination round rematch.

Ottawa’s Eric O’Dell (left) celebrates with Kent Johnson after scoring a goal in Canada’s 5-0 win over China. Photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images

Canada had entered the day with the hopes of securing a top-4 overall placement out of the 12 teams entered in order to avoid having to play a qualification playoff round contest, but Sweden earned a point for an overtime loss in their last group match and finished ahead of Canada.

Instead Canada will effectively have another warm-up match against last-place China (on Tuesday in Beijing) before a likely quarter-final showdown with the Swedes (on Wednesday in Beijing). Prior to the 5-0 win over China, Canada beat Germany 5-1, and lost 4-2 to USA.

Eric O’Dell. File photo

With 1 goal and 3 assists, O’Dell is tied for the team lead in scoring. The 2018 Olympic bronze medallist is proving to be a key figure for the Canadian men’s hockey team, which was assembled relatively last-minute when NHL players were withheld from participating due to ongoing COVID impacts.

O’Dell, 31, played junior hockey with the Cumberland Grads and Sudbury Wolves before beginning his pro career in the AHL and then playing 41 NHL games for the Winnipeg Jets. The current Moscow Dynamo player was in the midst of his sixth season in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League before getting the call from Team Canada.

Carp’s McTavish, who just turned 19 and is Canada’s youngest player, has yet to get on the scoresheet.

We look forward to sharing more about our Ottawa men’s hockey players’ journeys in our Ottawa at the Olympics coverage in the coming days.

‘I’m not counting us out yet’: Dawn McEwen after Canada falls to 1-3 in women’s curling

Ottawa and Canadian curling fans are probably feeling pretty gloomy this morning as Dawn McEwen and Lisa Weagle suffered their third straight defeat at the 2022 Winter Olympics, unless you happen to be close to Pierre Charette – the Canadian Curling Hall of Famer/local coach who’s helped guide Switzerland to a perfect 5-0 record in the women’s curling competition.

The Canadian women’s team skipped by Jennifer Jones dropped to 1-3 with their 8-4 defeat to Switzerland in their contest played overnight in our time zone. Tied at 4 with hammer in 8th, Canada seemed to be well-positioned against the unbeaten Swiss, but a pair of key misses by 2014 Olympic champ Jones gave their opponents a steal of 2 and the big upper hand.

“Today’s game against Switzerland really put us to the test. Silvana and her team are true competitors and after winning back-to-back world championships, they’re hungry for a gold medal in Beijing,” McEwen noted in a Curling Canada Beijing blog post. “We were so close and it really came down to one shot. I’m not counting us out yet. I’ve seen Jen go on some pretty incredible streaks over her career and we’re still in this.”

Dawn McEwen (right) gets ready to sweep a stone at Beijing 2022. Photo: Andrew Lahodynskyj / COC

The 41-year-old mother of two young girls also underlined in her post that she vowed to “savour every moment of this Olympic Games and embrace the experience for everything it is” while showing young women that “you can chase after whatever dreams you have in life while still being a mom!”

McEwen also said that it was “special to be at these games with my fellow lead Lisa,” who was an opponent for years before joining forces last season. “Her knowledge and composure have brought so much to our team, and she’s just as much a part of this experience,” added McEwen.

That time Lisa Weagle played skip

Weagle has yet to throw a stone for Team Jones and perhaps would be wondering at this stage if she’ll see any meaningful action at the Games. A PyeongChang 2018 Olympian with Rachel Homan’s Ottawa Curling Club crew, Weagle joined Team Jones last season as a member of their five-player lineup.

The 36-year-old Nepean High School and University of Ottawa grad would be most likely to step in at her usual lead position, but McEwen has been solid, curling 92% over the 4 games.

Lisa Weagle. File photo

Though the latest defeat falls largely on the skip, Weagle won’t be subbing in at that position. It was a disaster last time she played skip as a teenager for the all-Weagle family lineup, she reflected several years ago in an interview with the Ottawa Sports Pages.

Her parents, enthusiastic members of the Granite Curling Club, figured their daughters were ready for the challenge of a local adult league. Weagle had been an Ontario Bantam champion in 2000 and her younger sister Julia was showing promise too, having played alongside Emma Miskew against Homan in the local Little Rocks championship, staged on Ottawa Civic Centre ice for the 2001 Brier. But the dream team was a complete bust.

“It was horrible,” recalled Weagle, who was the team skip – “not a good position for me,” she smirked.

“We were all so competitive. We’ll never do it again,” added Weagle, whose father was particularly opposed to a second season since he always had to fork out for their victorious opponents’ first round of drinks (a curling tradition).

“He says it was a very expensive year,” smiled Weagle.

Day 13 preview: Mike Evelyn trades skate blades for bobsled runners in second ice sport career

When Mike Evelyn was young, his favourite movie was Cool Runnings, featuring the Jamaican bobsled team.

“I could recite the lines verbatim. Probably seen it 12 to 20 times,” he shared in an interview with High Achievers columnist Martin Cleary.

Mike Evelyn. Photo: COC

But his sport of choice growing up was definitely not bobsled, it was hockey. The former forward excelled with the CCHL’s Nepean Raiders and Ottawa Jr. Senators and wound up playing five seasons of university hockey with the Dalhousie Tigers.

But just as Evelyn was completing his electrical engineering degree and starting a job with Lockheed Martin, he unexpectedly discovered an opportunity to become a “glorified sprinter and then a sack of potatoes” in bobsleigh.

Evelyn’s sister suggested he give the RBC Training Ground program a try to see if his athletic talents were compatible with other sports.

A Bobsleigh Skeleton Canada recruiter liked Evelyn’s test results, and in the spring of 2018, he flew to Calgary for a one-week session of sliding and learning to pilot a sled.

“I was excited to try a new opportunity. I didn’t know anything about bobsleigh,” signalled Evelyn, who stands 6 feet, 3.5 inches tall and weighs 230 pounds. “I thought it was (the sport) for me. I motorcycle, too, and I get the same rush (in bobsledding). I love the speed, going fast, the lifestyle, sprinting, lifting and the team culture. I missed that after I retired from hockey.”

(From left) Sam Giguère, Cody Sorensen, Mike Evelyn and Chris Spring. Photo: IBSF

Evelyn caught on quickly and learned the ropes of the sport during the 2019-2020 season on the North American Cup circuit. For the past two seasons, he has been on Canada’s main national team competing on the World Cup circuit and at world championships.

One of the off-season athlete assessments is the push test, where athletes push an empty sled for a specific distance at the Ice House in Calgary. Evelyn is the best in Canada at that task. He holds the Canadian team record, whether pushing from the left or the right side, and has a best-ever time of 4.93 seconds.

Mike Evelyn (left) and pilot Chris Spring. Photo: IBSF

That feat has helped earn him a place on the start line for the Olympic two-man competition, pushing for pilot Chris Spring in Beijing. The expectations aren’t as high for Spring and Evelyn in the two-man event as fellow Canadian Justin Kripps, who’s ranked 2nd.

Spring finished 13th in this season’s two-man World Cup standings, though that likely would have been inside the top-10 if he hadn’t missed two races early in 2022. Spring and Evelyn placed 4th in back-to-back races at the end of 2021 before COVID ripped through the Canadian bobsled team.

When Evelyn is away from bobsleigh, he’s passionate about playing board games. He has more than 100 board games in his collection and every time he takes the lid off a box his competitive juices come to the forefront in a family match.

But he resisted bringing any board games on the World Cup tour. That’s understandable. He’s focused on success at the real Games.

“We’re all there for business,” Evelyn stated in a pre-Games interview with Cleary.

Evelyn will also race in the four-man competition next weekend alongside fellow Ottawa native Cody Sorensen (with a viewing party for family, friends and supporters being organized at Busters Bar & Grill in Kanata). The first 2 of 4 two-man runs take place Monday morning in Ottawa.

Ottawa Olympians’ Day 13 Schedule:

View the full competition schedules for all our Ottawa Olympians here.

Ottawa athletes also in action on Day 13:

It’s do or die time for Jamie Lee Rattray and the Canadian women’s hockey team in their quest to return to the top of the podium, and so far they’ve been doing nothing but living large. Their upcoming semi-final opponent, Switzerland, provided the launching pad for Canada’s dominant run to this point in the 12-1 tournament opener.

The Canadians have outscored their opponents by a whopping 39 goals through 5 games. With 4 goals and 4 assists, Rattray sits 7th in Team Canada scoring, and – get this – 7th in overall tournament scoring as well. The gold medal match goes Wednesday night at 11:10 p.m. Ottawa time, by the way.

By the time you hear from us next, the fate of Lisa Weagle and Dawn McEwen’s Olympics will be coming into much sharper focus. The Canadian curlers will have a pair of crucial matches against ROC and Great Britain on Day 13 – facing pretty much “must-win” stakes to keep their hopes of reaching the playoff round alive.

After a 1-3 start, Canada will realistically have to win at least 4 of their last 5 games to have a shot at the medal round (5 wins would of course make their chances even better of getting into the top-4 of 10 teams).

That’s all for today – hope you enjoy a Super Sunday (no matter which sport you’re watching!)

(This article was first sent to subscribers of the Ottawa at the Olympics Daily Newsletter. Sign up to receive it, for free, here.)

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