Ice Network

Moore-Towers, Moscovitch lead with 'comfy' short

Castelli, Shnapir edge Denney, Coughlin for second
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Defending pairs champions Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch of Canada claimed the short program with 68.52 points. -Jay Adeff

This summer, Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch almost traded in their quirky, intricate short to Raphael Beau and Mötley Crüe's Micmacs soundtrack for a new routine to Benny Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing." Skate Canada officials -- and the team's coach, Kris Wirtz -- thought the Canadian silver medalists should stay the course another season, but Moore-Towers wanted a crack at something new.

In the end, much to Wirtz's relief, the skaters realized they had something special going with Micmacs and decided to stick with it.

"This is a pressure season, and no matter what you do, you can't forget that the Olympics are in February," Wirtz said. "It's an original program, it's always gone over well, and it was very hard to match that originality with anything new. The great thing is, it's still fresh and they still love it. Stepping away from it helped them realize how great the program is for them."

On Thursday night at the 2013 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic, it wasn't quite great; Moscovitch took a big turnout on a triple toe. But a strong throw triple loop, plus a fine Axel lasso lift, snappy steps and a large dose of unison and speed added up to 68.52 points and a 6.26-point lead over U.S. champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir.

"Maybe the toe felt too good," Moscovitch said. "I didn't check out enough."

"There were a couple of stupid, silly things, one obvious and the others not so obvious," Moore-Towers said. "We're here to build for the Grand Prix season, and I think we did that."

Moore-Towers admits it took stepping away from the program to appreciate it even more.  

"We had all of last year to run through it and figure out the characters and how to portray them," she said. "We have a better understanding of Mark [Pillay's] choreography, and it's more fluid. ... It's comfy, but we're still excited to skate it, so hopefully that's a good sign."

Wirtz sees even better things ahead.

"Dylan and Kirsten have this nice ability to perform a little bit better every time they go out," he said. "Our focus is to get ourselves out as much as we can, and for them to improve daily, weekly and monthly, and obviously hit their peak in February and March."

Castelli and Shnapir turned in a sophisticated performance to a Santana medley, highlighted by a huge triple twist and throw triple Salchow as well as complex transitions. Although Shnapir fell on a triple Salchow, the team's pairs spin, step sequence and lift all gained Level 4's, and it earned 62.26 points.

Castelli credits Marcotte's visit to their training site at Skating Club of Boston last week with the program's surprising early-season polish.

"Julie decided we were going to be senior-level ice dancers this season," Castelli said. "We're still trying to process what she changed on us last week. We kept trying to remember, 'Don't do this -- we have to do this instead.' The transitions are difficult. We love the program, and we think we can do even better."

Since starting work with the French-Canadian choreographer last season, the skaters have ratcheted up their performance quality.

"We've learned we may not skate perfect programs, but if we work on our performance, [even after] a glitch or mistake or two, we can still rebound and have a good showing," Shnapir said.

Caydee Denney and John Coughlin sit 0.40 points behind Castelli and Shnapir after a commanding program choreographed by Marcotte and Christopher Dean to selections from Tosca.

The program's opening pose is vintage Dean: Coughlin holds Denney shoulder high in a "plank" position and then drops her down to the first crash of cymbals in the music.

"That crash happens so early on in the music, we can't get to an element to highlight it," Coughlin said. "Obviously, you can't do a triple twist from a dead stop."

They followed with a soaring Level 3 triple twist; their lift, pairs spin and steps all gained Level 4's. Although Denney put a hand down on an under-rotated triple toe, they picked up points with a Level 3 death spiral, an element that has challenged them in the past.

"We've been training back at home trying to do a Level 4, and our goal here was Level 3," Denney said. "I think all of that over-training really helped."

"It's a strong score for us for an imperfect program," Coughlin said. "I don't know that we've broken 60 that often even with a clean program. In front of an international panel, it means they like this program. Overall, we're pretty excited about it."

Tarah Kayne and Danny O'Shea turned in a strong performance to James Bond movie themes, including solid triple Salchows, a throw triple loop and fluid Level 4 steps. Their 60.31 points put them fourth.

Canadian bronze medalists Paige Lawrence and Rudy Swiegers are fifth with 59.30 points. Two falls, his on a triple toe and hers on a throw triple flip, marred Felicia Zhang and Nate Bartholomay's short to "Carousel Waltz," and they sit sixth with 49.73 points.

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