Blake needs shades

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

INNISFAIL -- He's the best curler that nobody knows.

"If you're rating shot-makers in the country, he's definitely up in the top 10," said Dave Nedohin of the unknown curling star.

Nedohin you've heard of. He's the last-rock thrower for Randy Ferbey's three-time Brier champions - arguably the No. 1 shot-maker in the world.

Blake MacDonald is the Dave Nedohin of the rink the curlers themselves made the No. 2 seed here.

MacDonald shot the lights out here last night to defeat Calgary's John Morris 10-4 to go 4-0, clinching first place in Group 'B' in the Alberta Kia Cup.

MacDonald's rink, skipped by Jamie King, advances to Saturday's match against the first place team in Group 'A' - two wins away from representing Alberta in the Edmonton 2005 Brier. He'll play the winner of this morning's showdown of other unbeaten Edmonton rinks, Ferbey and Mark Johnson, in the so-called 1-1 game.

MacDonald and rink have been knocking on the door for years. Two years ago the rink lost to Ferbey in the provincial final.

"They're a team which relies heavily on the last rock thrower and he's capable of taking care of this," says Nedohin.

"If they can get out of this, I'd put them in the playoffs at the Brier in Edmonton and see what happens."

MacDonald was a 22-year-old playing on the front end of Ken Hunka's rink the last time the Brier was in Edmonton.

ERNIE'S RECORD

He'd be a pretty good story if he got back again. Maybe not as good a story as the Ferbey Four, mind you. They could become the first rink in Alberta curling history to win the province five times (Ron Northcott having won four straight in the '60s), and get to the hometown Brier where they could go for Ernie Richardson's record of four Brier titles in five years.

"The thing about curling is that only the Brier makes household names," says Nedohin. "A Brier would give him a chance to show off. He'll get a chance over the next five years."

Nedohin says he doesn't have any sympathy for the unknown curling star.

"He was 22 when he went to a Brier. I was 27 and I'd never been to a national championship in anything," he said.

"He's roughly in the same place right now that we were five years ago when we got this going," he said.

Ferbey said the same thing.

PRETTY CLOSE

"He's pretty solid. That rink is pretty close to a breakthrough here. They remind me of ourselves five or six years ago."

MacDonald says they're close.

"A couple of breaks here and there ... We've played everybody here and beat everybody here. We're something like 9-3 against Kevin Martin over the years. Our record is about the opposite against Ferbey."

MacDonald says he holds very little resentment about Ferbey winning four straight provincial titles, or Martin winning six titles in the decade before.

"Having the Ferbey and Martin rinks in Edmonton has helped our game a lot, too. I think our game has gone up another level because of them. I don't think the people in Edmonton realize how good the curlers in our city really are. We have the best curlers in the world."

Ferbey and Martin have worked for everything they've got out of the game, he says.

"Those two teams put a lot more into it than most teams. Like them, we practise every day, but they've made sacrifices with work that we haven't made. They play in about 18 events a year. We made it to nine this year, which is more than usual and more than we wanted to play, really."

They poured themselves into it this year to try to win a berth in the Olympic trials in Halifax in October. They missed. They have one chance left and that's to win the Brier - or finish behind a rink or rinks already qualified for the Olympic trials.

But just getting back to the Brier would make it all worthwhile for MacDonald, who struggled with the 5-6 Hunka rink.

"I was like a deer in headlights. I got too wrapped up in the event. I'd like to have it to do all over again."


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