Koe gets Oly trials berth

CON GRIWKOWSKY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:50 AM ET

Kevin Koe and his Edmonton foursome have earned themselves some breathing room.

Koe's team nailed down the third direct berth for the 2009 Olympic trials, being held in Edmonton December 6-13.

They join Kevin Martin and Glenn Howard, with the final men's direct berth determined at the 2009 Grey Power Players' Championship, which gets underway in Grande Prairie tonight.

Koe currently holds tenuous leads in both the three-year and two-year Canadian Teams Ranking System lists.

Edmonton's Randy Ferbey could grab the three-year berth with a win at Grande Prairie this weekend and Wayne Middaugh could grab the two-year spot with a win.

"You have to remember to take out the lowest event the guys have," said Paul Webster, who keeps track of such things for the Canadian Curling Association. "Ferbey can catch him on one list with the win and Middaugh can do it on the other list, but neither can do it with a runner-up since both those teams mentioned would have to subtractpoints at the Players based on the fact they can only qualify 10 events."

Since it's an impossibility for both Ferbey (who would lose 11 points) and Middaugh (six point deduction) to win at Grande Prairie, it's also impossible to knock Koe's team out of the trials.

Which suits Koe's last rock Blake MacDonald just fine.

"For the first time in a while, we can just concentrate on playing well, concentrate on getting our game together," said MacDonald, whose team nailed down the spot when they qualified at the Bear Mountain spiel in Victoria a couple of weeks back.

The team has struggled this season and there's no question it needs to find a way to regain the form that made it among the top three in the world the previous two years. It was thanks to the strong showing in previous years that formed an insurmountable base that gave it a trials berth.

"We didn't play well enough this season and I think worrying too much about the points may have contributed to that," said MacDonald. "It's an opportunity to work on our game instead of worrying about points and how other teams are doing. The previous two years, we've played well enough. What this is going to do is allow us to refocus on what's important and that's 'how do we get better?'

"We can now focus on what's important. We can start focusing on getting better for the trials."

Also in contention for the fourth direct berth are Winnipeg's Kerry Burtnyk and Jeff Stoughton, who would need some help from Middaugh and Ferbey.

Winnipeg's Jennifer Jones and Calgary's Shannon Kleibrink have grabbed the first two direct women's berths to the Roar of the Rings.

At the end of this week's event, the CCA will be able to name the fourth men's teams and the two remaining women's teams with direct berths to Edmonton.

Also, the event will determine another eight teams for the 12-team pre-trials event in Prince George this November.

Out of that event, the four semifinalists will join teams already qualified to for eight-field teams that will battle it out for a spot on Canada's Olympic team for Vancouver 2010.

EXTRA POINTS: Edmonton rinks skipped by Cathy King, Chris Schille and Ted Appelman all have a chance this week to nail down spots for the Nov. 10-14 pre-trials event in Prince George.


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