Moore-Towers and

This time, it was a little bit different for Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro. As defending national champions, they were the ones with the targets on their backs.

But Moore-Towers and Marinaro shook off that pressure — not to mention an early miscue on their side-by-side triple Salchows — and cruised to their second straight Canadian pairs crown. They handily won the long program with a 141.94 score and posted a 215.67 overall total that was 19.38 points better than the rest of the field.

“Our goal here was to solidify ourselves as the No. 1 Canadian team, so we’re thrilled to have done that,” said Moore-Towers, who admitted that being in the position of defending their title weighed on the team. “This year, that was a little bit more difficult, so that was playing on our minds a little bit.”

Now their sights are clearly set on making a big mark at the World Championships in Montréal in March. “We have some big goals this season, so this weekend was bigger than getting the gold medal,” said Marinaro. “We needed to put down some skates that we could feel comfortable with and move forward with. It’s still not perfect, but it’s definitely a good step. On the World stage, we’re going to have to bring a bigger performance than we did today.”

For the second straight year, Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud were the silver medalists behind Moore-Towers and Marinaro, with 196.29 points in total. More importantly, Walsh and Michaud put a tough fall season behind them and stepped up when it mattered the most, with a second Canadian spot at Worlds on the line.

“There’s so many positives we can take out of this,” said Walsh. “It’s definitely the peak of our season so far and it’s exactly where we want to be.”

Lubov Ilyushechkina and Charlie Bilodeau, in their first season together as a pairs team, appeared in position to claim the runner-up spot after a strong short program. But they faltered in the long with an error-riddled performance that included falls on both their throws, leaving them with the bronze medal.

“It’s not what we were aiming for,” said Ilyushechkina. “It’s disappointing. The second half of the program was not up to our standards.”