Aaron Sluchinski (photo: Anil Mungal) of Airdrie is back home into the Pumps and Pressure Red Deer Curling Classic playoffs after making their Slam debut.
Photo: Kerr Drummond (left), Jeremy Harty, Dylan Webster and Aaron Sluchinski.
Sluchinski defeated Saskatoon-based Mike McEwen in the A-Qualifiers to book their place into Monday's quarterfinals where they will face Saskatoon's Rylan Kleiter, in his 14th appearance at the Red Deer Classic.
Sluchinski with Jeremy Harty at third, Kerr Drummond and Dylan Webster on the front end opened scoring with a single point in the second end. After trading singles in the second and third ends, McEwen with Colton Flasch and Dan and Kevin Marsh on the front end jumped out to a 4-2 lead scoring three in the fifth end.
From there, it was all Team Sluchinski, scoring two in the sixth end to tie the game, then a single point in the seventh end to take the lead back. Sluchinski got the steal of two in the eighth end to finish off a 7-4 win.
Fresh off their first two Grand Slam event appearances, the team felt confidence from their 4-4 combined record, missing the playoffs on shootout ranking in both events.
"Going into our first slam was a huge learning experience for our team, and being competitive amongst the best in the world is something that we are really proud of and will continue pushing forward so we get a lot more of these opportunities, " said Drummond, a recently minted Canadian citizen.
Drummond grew up competing in juniors in Scotland, his older brother Greg winning a silver medal with David Murdoch at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.
Now, this is his first full season chasing the Canadian men's national championship.
"Just missing out by a few CMs on the draw shot is a tough one to swallow, but we are preparing ourselves for the Saskatchewan slam in a few weeks where we hope to have another great event.
Sluchinski has a career record of 43 wins and 32 losses in his 14th appearance at the Pumps and Pressure Red Deer Curling Classic, while Harty has 24 wins in 8 appearances, Webster with 39 wins in 11 appearances and Drummond's 22 wins in 6 appearances round out the squad.
A decade ago, as the 6th-ranked Canadian team, Sluchinski would have long been a Grand-Slam regular, with previous iterations hosting 18 men's teams of which more than 80% would be domestic teams. The world has learned the Grand Slams are the best place to train and compete leaving many of Canada's young teams pushing up the ladder out of this opportunity.
Events like the Pumps and Pressure Red Deer Curling Classic are even more important now to young Canadian teams who gain experience competing against the game's best teams and the potential to earn World Team Ranking points towards qualification in the Grand Slams.
"Going into Red Deer, we knew we were a high ranked team on the seeding list, however that doesn’t mean that we put the brakes on," added Drummond.
"There are so many good teams that are competing and if you are not on your game, it’ll make things very challenging to get that 'W'."
Sluchinski added Harty to the lineup at the beginning of last season, and they really came together as a team. Prior to that, the other three played the 2021/22 season as a true three-player team.
"Our team has chemistry like no other, and it shows, we know what we need to do on and off the ice to be our best, and we are hoping to continue finishing this event off strong."
In their opening game, Sluchinski defeated Ryan Jacques (Edmonton) 7-5, then won 7-4 against Jongduk Park (Gangwon, South Korea) to advance to the A-Qualifier game.