Mac Ice draws field of champions

JOE PAVIA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:36 AM ET

The Mac Ice Classic keeps getting better and better.

Starting Wednesday at the RCMP Curling Club, this year's Thanksgiving weekend bonspiel boasts nearly 20 former Brier participants and nearly a dozen former Scotties players. Combine the players' skill with the RCMP's swinging fast ice and theres enough curling entertainment to make one skip the turkey.

Twenty-two of the 40 men's rinks are from outside the region, including several Northern Ontario and Quebec squads, led by defending champion Jean-Michel Menard of Quebec City.

There is even an entry from Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, skipped by Daniel Neuner, who was eighth at the 2007 world juniors. Mac Ice organizer John Steski notes the Germans were one of the first to enter last spring.

Northern Ontario is represented by seven teams, led by Sudburys Tracy Horgan, who took home the top prize money at the OVCT Fall Open at the RCMP two weeks ago.

Longtime Ottawa curlers will recognize the name of Margaret McLaughlin. Now living in Sudbury, she will be here with her team skipped by Vicky Barrett. McLaughlin is the vice.

The northern men have plenty of Brier experience, led by Tim Phillips and the Harnden clan (Eric, E.J. and Ryan). Ottawa's Christian Tolusso will be skipping a junior team from Thunder Bay, where he's moving after this bonspiel.

Quebec is represented by perennial Brier and Scotties talent. Besides Menard's Brier boys, there's Francois Roberge, Pierre Charette, Ted Butler (OVCT men's champ), Maxime Elmaleh, Martin Ferland and Louis Biron.

Marie-France Larouche and her Scotties squad will be fired up as they tune up for the Road to the Roar, an Olympic trials qualifier in November in Prince George, B.C.

Local Mac Ice participants with Brier experience include Bryan Cochrane, Rich Moffatt, Steski, Gary Rowe, Howard Rajala, Chris Fulton, Jeff Henderson and Frank O'Driscoll. The Hanna sisters (Jenn and Steph, the defending champs) plus Allison Ross with teammate Catherine Derick provide the Ontario Scotties experience.

With their sights also set on the Road to the Olympics, Rachel Homan's young Ottawa rink is looking to continue its strong season. Southern Ontario's Greg Balsdon, and local teams skipped by Greg Richardson, Jeff McCrady and Chris Gardner are also capable of winning.

The triple-knockout format begins with the men Wednesday at 3 p.m. The women slide off at noon Thursday.

The finals are Monday at 6 p.m. Look for Larouche and Homan to meet in the women's final, and Menard and Balsdon on the men's side, with both Quebec rinks winning.

You can follow the draw at capitalcurling.com.

Junior achievement

Homan beat Jamie Sinclair to win the Rideau Icebreaker Junior Bonspiel last weekend. Matt Cam beat Andrew Minty to win the men's A title. Other event winners were Stephanie Brown (B), Emily Au (C) and Alanna Routledge (D); Geoff Spruit (B), Jason Au (C) and Tom Lepage (D).

On the Web

Get a preview of the Season of Champions during a webcast Wednesday, 9 p.m. Visit seasonofchampions.ca/webcast.

joe@hoglinecurling.com


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