Edmonton skip Kelsey Rocque and third Danielle Schmiemann might not say much to each other in the house but they don’t need to when they’re always in sync.
It’s been that way since they first joined forces five years ago in juniors and has carried with them now into the top tier of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling.
Schmiemann remembers their first meeting in 2014 at the University of Alberta was very quiet as they’re both shy, introverted people, however, once they got onto the ice they clicked together almost instantly.
“We both have a very unique approach to playing back end and something you don’t see in a lot of skips,” Schmiemann said. “We’re very quiet, we don’t talk a whole lot but we’re on the same page pretty much all of the time and if there is anything that we’re not, it’s always been very easy. We haven’t had to work on a lot of dynamics or trying to figure out how to talk to each other or anything like that. It’s always come very naturally since the first year, since juniors.”
Rocque echoed those comments and likes the quiet confidence Schmiemann brings in the house.
“It’s kind of an effortless teammate and partnership in the back end,” Rocque said. “We get along really well and have very similar personalities, so it works out great.”
The pair have played together in some high-profile games already in their young careers capturing gold medals for Canada at the 2015 world junior championships and 2017 Winter Universiade.
Schmiemann points to their junior provincial final as the most memorable of the bunch and it’s also a perfect example of how their somewhat unorthodox back-end approach has led to success. Rocque held the hammer coming home tied against Janais DeJong, who sat shot rock at the back of the four-foot circle and half-buried. Schmiemann thought they were going to draw but since they were sitting second stone and didn’t need to stick around, Rocque wanted to pick it out. Of course, their discussion on what to do was brief.
“I didn’t say anything, like, ‘Yup, good,’” Schmiemann recalled. “She went down and threw it. She and I remember so vividly, she threw it so tight. We were both yelling hard right away, they swept it the entire way, we just missed the guard and we kicked it out.
“That was also my first junior provincial win and that started the run right through Canadians and world juniors. We only lost one game after that. That one stands out because without that we wouldn’t have the other stuff to follow. Her being pretty confident in what she wanted to do, I was like, ‘Yup, go do it.’”
The two went their separate ways for a couple of years after Rocque aged out of juniors until they reunited last season ahead of the new Olympic cycle with lead Jesse Marlow, who was also part of their world junior championship team, and second Becca Hebert.
“We’re really good friends off the ice, which I think is what led us back to playing together after a couple of years doing our own thing while I finished juniors and she started women’s,” Schmiemann said. “It’s great. I couldn’t ask for anyone better to play with.”
Rocque added: “She’s one of my best friends and I couldn’t imagine anyone else in the house with me back there playing the third position, so I’m really fortunate that she’s hanging with me. We have a lot of fun together and she’s a great player.”
Team Rocque started the 2019-20 campaign ranked 24th in the world and well short of qualifying for the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling. They went all out to open the season competing in three consecutive weeks with back-to-back tournaments in Oakville, Ont., followed by their home event at the Saville Centre in Edmonton to rise into the top 15 in time to make the cut for the first GSOC event, the Masters, in North Bay, Ont.
“We met as a team at the end of last season and just said this year we really wanted to go hard for it and put all we could into it,” said Rocque, who finished runner-up to Chelsea Carey in provincials last season. “It just goes to show we’ve really focused hard on curling, we’ve played a little more, we’ve practised more and we’re lucky that it’s paying off.”
They thought they wouldn’t start their GSOC run this year until the Tier II division of the KIOTI Tractor Tour Challenge in Pictou County, N.S. Instead, they were competing in Tier I and holding their own qualifying for the playoffs.
“To be able to qualify at a Slam obviously is very tough and one of our goals this year was to qualify in a Slam this year, so that was a big goal achieved for us,” Rocque said. “It felt really good, you get a little bit of sense of maybe we do belong here, so it felt good moving forward.”
Schmiemann believed Rocque was good back in juniors but has seen her grow and mature as a skip since they first linked up five years ago.
“Every time that I’ve played with her, I think it’s the same thing: it’s quiet confidence,” Schmiemann said. “It’s not something that she easily portrays to other people but if you know her and you know her as a person, she’s always trying to learn. She’s always paying attention, she’s always trying to get the best out of people around her.
“I think she’s taken a lot from the different teams that she’s been able to play on and the different people that she’s gotten to play with leading up to this. She’s brought a lot of that experience and a lot of that knowledge in a very calm and confident way that she always has and I respect that a lot about her.”
Although Rocque graduated from the University of Alberta years ago, she remains a student of the game.
“I’ve learned a ton in the last five years and I know I’m going to learn more five years from now,” Rocque said. “I think just continuing to learn, get better and continuing to play against those top teams and having that opportunity is a great start for our team.”