Haliburton’s Owen Nicholls is looking to make a name for himself on the national stage later this month, when he travels to Summerside, P.E.I. to participate in the 2023 Canada Winter Games.

Nicholls, a Grade 12 student at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School (HHSS), will play in the U18 curling championships, where he will represent the London-based Team Stratton. It will be his 12th major event of a highly-successful first season with the team, which has claimed wins at multiple prestigious events, including the Canada Winter Games trials in December, and the Ontario provincial championships in January.

The event will feature 12 of the best up-and-coming teams from across the country, including representatives from all 10 provinces, Nunavut, and the Northwest Territories. Nicholls leaves Feb. 26 and will be down east for 10 days.

“To say it’s the stuff of dreams would be an understatement. Having the chance to play at a Canada Games and see how good you have to be to actually compete at that level, it’s going to be one of the best experiences of my life,” Nicholls told The Highlander.

Playing the lead position, Nicholls has developed a tight bond with his new teammates this season. Having played with fellow Haliburtonian Jacon Dobson at the U21 level last year, Nicholls accepted an offer to join Team Stratton in the summer, after serving as a spare for the squad at least season’s provincial championships.

“I gladly took the offer – they were the reigning provincial champions and a national bronze medalist, so I saw it as an opportunity to take my game to new heights,” he noted.

Nicholls has come a long way from his humble beginnings as a novice, starting out at the youth program at the Haliburton Curling Club. It’s been nine years since he threw his first rock, and while he’s played at some of the best venues across the province, he said his favourite rink will always be right here in the Highlands. He still gets out to the Mountain Street facility at least once a week for regular league play.

He gave a shoutout to Hugh Nichol and Terry Lawrence, who ran the youth program, for inspiring him at a young age and pushing him to learn and grow over the years. He said he plans to take their many lessons and put them into practice on the ice in Summerside next week.

After working out some early season kinks, Team Stratton is heading into the games as one of the favourites. Nicholls feels the team is coming into peak form at just the right time.

“This has been our goal right from day one. Now that we’re here we have to make the most of this opportunity,” Nicholls said.

“At the beginning of the season, we were just scratching out wins whereas now we’re really earning them… it’s going to be nice to test myself and see how we fare as a team. I’m confident we can go there and compete against anyone.”

Team Stratton is guaranteed to play five games, starting with an afternoon tilt against Team Northwest Territories Feb. 28. To track results, visit 2023canadagames.ca.