KMart joins heavyweights in Drayton

CON GRIWKOWSKY, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 7:35 AM ET

He's baaaaack! Drayton Valley, get ready for one of the best rockfests in Alberta curling history.

Defending Alberta champ Kevin Martin earned his way back to this year's event with an 8-4 win over Wade White in last night's A Event final of the men's northerns in Sherwood Park.

In a battle of undefeated playdowns teams, Martin scored a first-end deuce when White's last-rock takeout cranked straight left after it picked three feet away from Martin's rock.

"It was more a case of bad luck for him than good luck for us,'' said Martin. "The odds of something like that happening again are zero.''

Martin joins an already phenomenal field for the Feb. 7-11 event. Having the world's current No. 1-ranked team is just icing on the cake for an event that's shaping up to be must-see.

Randy Ferbey (No. 3), Kevin Koe (6) and Mark Johnson (8) have already pre-qualified.

It wasn't a question of if Martin would qualify for this provincial, but when.

As defending champ, Martin only had to go down the playdowns trail because he fine-tuned his lineup for the 2010 Olympics run.

As a tanned Ferbey stood in the upstairs lounge fresh off a Caribbean vacation, Martin was trying to get game-sharp against a formidable opponent who has lost just once since last month's Canada Cup qualifier.

"We're definitely going to have a team practice tomorrow,'' said Martin. "We're not quite ready for Winnipeg, I think. We're not firing, for sure, on all cylinders now.''

Next Wednesday, Martin and the other three Edmonton-based teams will be in Winnipeg for the BDO Classic, the second event of this Grand Slam season. Add 13th ranked Don Walchuk, whom Martin edged 8-7 in the A semi and the field will include five Edmonton teams in an 18-team event.

"With us having a new team, having a few more games was not a bad thing for us,'' said Martin.

"To be able to come through it, for sure it was better for us to play than to not play.''

Nine days after the Winnipeg event is done, Martin will be gunning for his record eighth Alberta title.

"I ain't done yet,'' said Martin. "This is a real good warmup for our team for next week in trying to get the ball rolling for us for the provincials. We've had about a month where we're not up to snuff.''


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