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OKOTOKS — It was three years ago it happened.
Kelsey Rocque was a college kid skipping two different teams. She was juggling her University of Alberta studies with skipping the Pandas intercollegiate team while also skipping an elite calibre World Curling Tour foursome featuring Laura Crocker at third.
Rocque’s college team ended up winning the Canadian crown and the right to represent Canada at the World University Games in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
One teeny, weeny, itsy bitsy, tiny little problem.
The event was scheduled for the same week as the Alberta Scotties, where her senior squad was considered a serious contender.
Rocque had to make a choice.
She chose her one and only opportunity to curl for Canada at the Universiade and made it look like a very good choice indeed by going to Kazakhstan and winning the gold medal.
But the choice she had to make left Crocker sitting in the stands at the provincial Scotties in St. Albert.
Fast-forward to the 2020 Sentinel Storage Alberta Scotties Tournament of Hearts that began here Wednesday.
Rocque and Crocker, now Walker, are both here skipping teams with a chance to win their first provincial title to get to their first Scotties Tournament of Hearts scheduled for next month in Moose Jaw, Sask. And their chances just got better with the very first draw of the event.
With defending champion Chelsea Carey, of Calgary, already into next month’s Scotties championship in Moose Jaw as Team Canada, the favourite here became Casey Scheidegger, of Lethbridge, the 2018 provincial champion who also qualified as a wildcard entry last year.
Scheidegger was returning from giving birth only eight weeks ago and was absolutely eviscerated, 12-5, by a largely unknown second-year team skipped by Krysta Hilker of St. Albert.
While Walker required an extra end to dispose of Nicky Kaufman, of Lacombe, while Rocque had to battle from a 5-5 tie after eight ends to defeat Marla Sherrer, also of Lacombe, they at least avoided wrecking early themselves.
So this sets up as the women’s curling version of Matthew Tkachuk versus Zack Kassian?
Stand down, they both say. There will be no predator-type hits or rag-dolling going on out there on the ice at Murray Arena, where the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers play.
“They are a great team and they’re still great friends of ours. Taylor McDonald played with most of them in her university career and is still close to them,” Walker said. “We ended on good terms as former teammates. Taylor and Kelsey were both on the team that went to the Universiade, and myself an Jen Gates, who is now curling with Krista McCarville in Ontario, were the ones who sat out that provincials as a result.
“Taylor and Kelsey went on to win that gold medal and that’s an experience I’m so glad they were able to have.
“Sure, we could have won that provincials, but we might not have. Jen and I were thrilled for Taylor and Kelsey and can’t imagine ever taking that away from them.”
Rocque said that while she made the decision more stressful than she needed to, it was basically a no-brainer.
“Laura is a fantastic player and a great competitor. Obviously the decision between choosing to play with one team in provincials and the other at Universiade was difficult in that it affected teammates.
“But I do stand by it regardless of the result of winning the gold medal.”
It came down to wearing the red Maple Leaf and competing for Canada more than the opportunity to win gold.
“Many great players never have the opportunity to wear the Maple Leaf and that was something that you can’t pass up simply because you never know when you may be able to wear it again,” she said.
Funny the way it worked out.
Roque, Crocker, McDonald and Gates would play together in the 2018 Alberta Scotties won by Scheidegger. They lost their first game in both A and B events and lost to Val Sweeting after finally winning a couple games in C Event.
Rocque came back last year with Dannielle Schmiemann, Rebecca Konschuh and Jesse Isles while Walker hooked up with veterans Cathy Overton Clapton, Lori Olson-Johns and Laine Peters.
They met in B Event, with Rocque winning 8-7, before losing the final to Carey. Walker missed the playoffs.
Rocque is here with one lineup change, adding lead Jesse Marlow to the mix.
Walker is back with second McDonald and new teammates Kate Cameron at third and Nadine Scotland at lead.
“Danielle, Jess and I played juniors together and Becca has been a fantastic edition,” said Rocque of the way her team has evolved. “We’re all very close in age and knew coming together we could stick together for a while and really develop as a team. We’ve played more this season and really put a lot of work in as a team, so we are looking forward to putting it to the test this week at provincials.”
Rocque and Walker are ranked sixth and seventh in the nation, only 15 points apart. They face each other Thursday.
On Twitter: @ByTerryJones
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