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Port Moody curlers use video game to reach nationals

The foursome out of Port Moody curling club bond away from the rink by playing a video game called Rocket League
Lead Harrison Hrynew, second Ethan Chiu and skip Adrian Tam (L-R), along with teammate Austin Tomlinson from Salmon Arm, are heading to the Canadian U-18 boys and girls curling championships in Timmins, Ont., in February.

An online soccer video game where the players are cars could be key to bringing a junior national championship to the Port Moody Curling Club (PMCC).

Adrian Tam, skip of the PMCC foursome that’s headed to Timmins, Ont., for the under-18 Canadian championships Feb. 5–11, said while the team’s coaches have been honing their game on the ice, they’ve been forging their friendship over many hours playing Rocket League.

The bond paid off when Tam, lead Harrison Hrynew, second Ethan Chiu and third Austin Tomlinson finished second at provincials in Richmond in December, earning the opportunity to compete at nationals for the first time.

While Tam, Chiu and Hrynew all curl out of Port Moody, Tomlinson is from Salmon Arm, meaning the team is only fully together when they’re competing at bonspiels every second weekend or so.

To develop the communication skills and intuitive trust that is a building block to success in the sport, they stay connected as keyboard warriors.

Maybe a little too much, said Hrynew when asked how many hours they play.

Chiu, the consensus video game champion, said the team strategy it takes to be successful in Rocket League transfers to the curling rink as they learn how each other thinks and reacts under stressful situations.

Ken Krause, who coaches the team along with Ken Britz from Chilliwack, said the boys’ friendship makes his job easier.

“I’ve coached teams that don’t like each other and it makes for a long year,” he said.

Krause said after the boys finished third at last year’s provincials, just missing their chance to move on to nationals, they took the bit in their teeth to do what it takes to get their curling to the next level.

That’s meant a lot of hours on the ice throwing and sweeping rocks and in the gym working on their cardio, strength and flexibility.

"There's a lot of repetition to develop muscle memory," he said.

Hrynew added they need to have the stamina to be able to keep their sweeping strong and precise through the gruelling schedule of major competitions like nationals where they can play up to three games a day.

Krause said the team’s attention to detail allows him to direct his energy at smoothing out their mental approach so they can maintain their confidence and not get rattled with things go awry.

“We do a lot of talking to build them up, but we don’t want to get cocky,” he said.

It’s all about having that belief in themselves and each other, added Tam.

“We want to make each other better.”

The formula has got them this far, Krause said.

“They really feel they belong. They feel they can play with the big boys.”

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