Dacey, Rafuse advance

MONTY MOSHER -- Halifax Herald

, Last Updated: 12:39 PM ET

A few familiar names -- and one new one -- made their way into the Labatt Tankard provincial men's curling championship Sunday.

Defending Brier champ Mark Dacey of Mayflower, with three provincial titles in the past four years, and 1996 Tankard champ Brian Rafuse of Bridgewater went undefeated in their respective zone qualifying events to advance to the Tankard Feb. 4-8 in Bridgewater.

The other two teams to go through the zones unblemished are Mayflower's Mark Kehoe and 23-year-old Jamie Murphy, a former two-time New Brunswick junior champ in his first attempt to make the Tankard draw.

There was no repeat of last year's hiccup for Dacey and teammates Bruce Lohnes, Rob Harris and Andrew Gibson.

His team lost its last three straight in zone qualifying and had to beat former Canadian junior champ Shawn Adams in the last-chance event just to nab the final slot in the Tankard field.

But they left little doubt Sunday morning at the Sydney Curling Club, ripping Mayflower's Andrew Corkum 9-1 in a battle of undefeated teams.

"You look back at last year and it was almost like a near-death experience," Dacey said Sunday after racing home to Halifax ahead of impending bad weather.

"When you are writing the script ahead of time you certainly don't want that to be part of it. So we're quite satisifed with how it went this weekend. Now we can practise and prepare for Bridgewater."

Dacey put up two early deuces on Corkum and ended it early with a five-ender in the fourth.

Dacey was the top seed and Kehoe ranked No. 3 among 26 teams in the North Zone in Sydney. Rafuse was seeded third and Murphy ninth among 25 teams at the South Zone in Yarmouth.

Another 10 rinks will qualify today. The final two teams for the 16-team, triple knockout Tankard will come from a last-chance challenge round next weekend in Chester.

Kehoe, with Peter Burgess, Jason Blanchard and Justin Grundy, beat Peter Eddy 10-6 to punch his ticket to Bridgewater.

In Yarmouth, Rafuse, with Curt Palmer, Dave Slauenwhite and Glenn Josephson, made it look easy with an 8-0 win over Chester's Graham Breckon.

Murphy, with Kent Smith, Mike Bardsley and Kyle Schmeisser, may have been the surprise of the field, earning his way to the Tankard by beating former provincial finalist Danny Christianson of CFB Halifax 7-4.

Murphy also beat South Zone top-seed Scott Saunders of Mayflower on his way to a 4-0 slate.

The Murphy team is in its first year together.

"We knew we could compete," Murphy said. "Maybe we didn't think necessarily we would go through the A side 4-0, but we knew all season we'd thrown a lot of rocks and practised a lot and it was only a matter of time before we got it together. We had everything rolling this weekend."

The provincial champion will represent Nova Scotia at the Tim Hortons Brier March 5-13 in Edmonton.


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