Extra End Decides Curling Championship

May 13, 2014 by Adam Day
Dominion representative Paul Poirier leads Manitoba-Northwestern Ontario Command Past President Rick Bennett (second from right) and other guests towards the stage. [PHOTO: ADAM DAY]

Dominion representative Paul Poirier leads Manitoba-Northwestern Ontario Command Past President Rick Bennett (second from right) and other guests towards the stage.

It was an epic battle–and an epically good time–this year at the 58th Dominion Command Curling Championship, hosted March 15-19 by Dauphin Branch in Manitoba.

Deciding the winner took the entire bonspiel and then some, coming down to the last rocks of an extra end, when the crown was captured by the British Columbia/Yukon team of Dave Belway, Barry Meyer, Darin Gerow and Wayne Shepherd from Salmon Arm Branch. They defeated the hometown Dauphin Branch team of Ray Baker, Dwight Bottrell, Jim Todoruk, Greg Thompson and Bob Alm.

With only six provincial teams present, the event took on a shortened format this year, starting on Sunday and ending Tuesday.

It all began on Sunday afternoon after a short opening ceremony. At the ceremony, Manitoba/ Northwestern Ontario Command Past President Rick Bennett joined Dominion Command Sports Committee Vice-Chairman Paul Poirier in welcoming the curlers and spectators to the championships. “Sports have always been an important aspect of life within the RCL as there is something for everyone,” Poirier told the small crowd. “All are encouraged to join in for the joy of the sport and the spirit of healthy competition that results. If sports are approached from this perspective, all are winners. And keep in mind that good sports makes sports good.”

On Monday morning the leaders of the pack were beginning to emerge. The Saskatchewan team of Andrew Hay, Rick Middleton, Darren Clancy and Trevor Yousie from Nutana Branch in Saskatoon was sitting at 2-0 after two convincing victories on Sunday against B.C./Yukon and the Prince Edward Island team of Kevin Ellsworth, Blaine Hutt, Fred Fraser and David Bell from Saint Anthony Branch in Bloomfield.

Meanwhile, the Quebec team of Yvon Labrecque, Alain Beauregard, Jeffrey Bromby and Jean-Paul Brillon from Cowansville Branch was also unbeaten, having taken out P.E.I. and the Nova Scotia/Nunavut team of Ed Comeau, James Doucet, Louise Doucet and Pete Comeau from Weymouth Branch on Sunday.

It was these two teams of Saskatchewan and Quebec–the only two unbeaten teams–that were facing off first thing Monday on sheet six. The first four ends were as cautious as they were conservative, with each side content to blank or, at best, to use the hammer to mark one point on the board. After four ends they were tied at one apiece. The fifth end was a scorcher, when Quebec skip Labrecque was preparing to throw the last rock, he was looking at no less than eight rocks in the house. He had a chance to take two or even three points but he uncharacteristically clipped a guard and allowed Saskatchewan to steal a point. They went up 2-1.

In the next end, Quebec took two points for a 3-2 lead. Saskatchewan fired back and took a point in the 7th to tie the game at 3-3. Quebec went up 4-3 in the eighth and stole a point in the ninth to go up 5-3. Though Saskatchewan skip Hay did have a chance to win on his final stone at the end of the tenth, it was a true longshot which didn’t pan out. Quebec was now out in front of the bonspiel with 3-0 record.

Joining Saskatchewan in second place with a 2-1 record were B.C. and Manitoba.

On Monday afternoon the home team had its chance to make a mark when they faced off against the powerhouse Quebec. And they did not disappoint, forcing the Quebecers to offer a handshake after the eighth end. Both teams were now tied at three wins and one loss.

Meanwhile, Saskatchewan ran into some trouble with Nova Scotia and lost the match on the last rock, knocking themselves out of contention for the win. British Columbia/Yukon closed it out against P.E.I., setting up an interesting situation on Tuesday morning–with three teams tied at 3-1.

On the final day of regulation play two matches were set to sort it all out. At the end of the morning play, at least one team would be at 4-1–either B.C. or Quebec–and they were playing each other on sheet five. However, if the Dauphin home team could beat Saskatchewan they would also end the morning at 4-1, forcing an afternoon playoff for the win.

On sheet five B.C. held a 5-3 lead halfway through the match’s 10 ends, but Quebec wasn’t going out so easily and by the end of the seventh they’d tied it up 5-5. It would all come down to the last three ends.

Manitoba’s Greg Thompson lets go a rock during the final game. [PHOTO: ADAM DAY]

Manitoba’s Greg Thompson lets go a rock during the final game.
Poirier presents the trophy to the winning team from B.C./Yukon Command  of (from left) Dave Belway, Darin Gerow, Wayne Shepherd and Barry Meyer. [PHOTO: ADAM DAY]

Poirier presents the trophy to the winning team from B.C./Yukon Command of (from left) Dave Belway, Darin Gerow, Wayne Shepherd and Barry Meyer.

B.C. rose to the challenge, going up 7-5 after the eighth and stole another point to go up 8-5 after nine. B.C.’s skip Dave Belway took no chances in the 10th, peeling off every guard Quebec put up to leave a clean house. With nothing left to do, Quebec shook hands.

With that, attention shifted to sheet six and the Saskatchewan versus Manitoba game. If Manitoba couldn’t pull off a win, B.C. would be the Dominion champs. Going into the 10th and final end, Saskatchewan held a thin 7-6 lead but the Dauphin team had the hammer and skip Ray Baker played it perfectly, taking the win with his last stone and setting up an afternoon playoff for the championship.

The bonspiel-deciding match was methodical and cautious. The first end was a blank and in the second B.C. used their hammer to take one point. The third and fourth were blank. Dauphin took two in the fifth. B.C. squeaked one out in the sixth to tie the game at 2-2. In the seventh a series of mis-throws by Dauphin had the partisan crowd in an uproar and B.C. stole two to take a 4-2 lead. In the eighth Dauphin came back for a point to make it 4-3. B.C. used their hammer to take a point in the ninth and then it was down to the last end with the hometown boys down 5-3.

The crowd was three-deep and vociferous as the 10th end was coming to a close. Somewhat against the odds, Manitoba managed to score two with some intense last-minute shot-making which meant the final was going to extra ends.

However, the local dreams did not last much longer. B.C. was in no mood for errors and they played it tight all the way through, using the hammer advantage to close out the championship.

“This was a phenomenal event, right from beginning to end,” said B.C.’s Barry Meyer. “What was really neat was to win on the last rock, extra end, with everybody up there in the viewing area having a great time.”

And it must be said: a great time was had by all. Local Arrangements Chair Greg Thompson–who also curled on the Dauphin team during the event–and his committee left nothing to chance. “The goal here was simple,” said Thompson, “to make sure the curlers had a great time and good competition, to enjoy their stay here.

“When they go home hopefully they can share how good a time they had in Dauphin and encourage more teams to participate in curling,” he said. “Let’s keep Legion curling strong.”

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