When Jackie Bonot’s rink jumped out to a 5-0 start in the Husky Oil Women’s Major Curling League in Thunder Bay, a few people on the circuit were surprised at their success.
Bonot didn’t think it was a surprise at all.
In fact, winning on the curling sheet is nothing new for the 20-year-old skip from Stratton, who’s won several bonspiels over the past few years—not to mention the success she enjoyed in the high school and junior women’s ranks.
But she admitted the Thunder Bay league is a tad more competitive.
Bonot has lost two-straight games since her perfect start heading into last weekend’s action to fall into second place (Krista Scharf sits in first place with a 6-1 record) but her confidence has never wavered.
Bonot’s rink has continued to hold their own against the Thunder Bay ones, many of which have a few more years of experience in competitive curling under their belts.
“It’s far more competitive than the leagues we played back home,” said Bonot, noting her rink earns $100 per win in the cash league.
The 10-team league consists of a nine-game round-robin, with a playoff at the end of the year. In between, Bonot said they will be banking the money they earn and put it towards entry fees for bonspiels after Christmas in Stratton, Fort Frances, Nipigon, and the “Hope Classic” in Thunder Bay (which Bonot won last year).
Bonot said her rink, which includes third Andrea Lee of Stratton, second Christine Eby (Thunder Bay), and lead Andrea Bartlett (Nipigon), has played well so far this season. She attributed that success to good ol’ hard work in practice, and the fact they try to get in as many games as possible during the course of the season.
“We practice a lot and we play a lot of games but the key is that we work really well together, said Bonot, whose father, Bryan, served as her high school coach at Rainy River. “Andrea Lee and I have curled together before so we’re on the same wavelength for a lot of shots, which is very important.”
Lee, who also made it to the all-Ontarios as a member of the Rainy River Owls, agreed their camaraderie on the ice helped them get off to such a strong start.
“We’re all good friends that get along so we jell on the ice,” said Lee. “At first, I didn’t expect us to be this good but I’m also not surprised.
“I didn’t realize until later that we were among the top teams [because] it’s a really great competition playing against older women, not just girls our own age,” she added.
Lee felt the biggest difference in the women’s major league is strategy, and the fact just one or two missed shots could spell the difference between winning and losing.
“Strategy-wise, we still have to get better which keeps us on our toes,” she admitted. “We have the skills down pat, we just have to get better with strategy.”
Meanwhile, the rink also has its eyes set on a junior crown. Fresh off a victory at the Port Arthur playdowns, which earned them a berth to the association playdowns in early December in Rainy River, Bonot hopes to capture the provincials in Iroquois Falls and then advance to the nationals in British Columbia.
Don Gale, who’s coached curling at RRHS the past few years, said he sees no reason why this foursome will not continue their success—and hinted he would not be surprised at all if they made it to the nationals.
“[Jackie and Andrea] are two very dedicated curlers who are confident and very smart. They are always two or three shots ahead of the game,” said Gale.
“They’ve played together for many years and have curled a lot so they have a lot of experience despite their lack of years.
“If they want to continue on, I think they’ll be successful. And if they stay together, I think they can move on to the nationals,” he predicted.