Rogers joins provincial champs

TODD SAELHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:24 PM ET

CALGARY -- Les is apparently more where the provincial champions are concerned.

Given that theory, it's assumed the addition of former Calgary skip Leslie Rogers should ensure successful defence of the Alberta women's curling title for Valerie Sweeting.

Trouble is the Edmonton skip and her team aren't the young unknowns of the ice like they were last season, when they surprised fans and opposition alike by upsetting super-rinks en route to the provincial crown at the Calgary Curling Club.

"Last year, we were definitely underdogs," said Sweeting, 23. "This year, we obviously have a target on our backs -- we're not going under the radar. But at the same time, maybe people aren't expecting us to do as well."

It's not that they're not respected in the curling world.

"Definitely, we've gotten a lot of respect," Sweeting And that respect is building. But we've got a ways to go."

Cue the addition of Rogers, the daughter of former world senior champion Les Rogers.

A slight shuffle in Sweeting's lineup now has Leslie Rogers playing third, while Megan Einarson slides back to second and Whitney More fits into the lead position. Lindsay Makichuk, who was the rink's lead when they won the Alberta purple heart last January, is now skipping her own team out of Red Deer.

"Leslie brings lots of experience and lots of maturity," said Sweeting of the 30-year-old Rogers. "And she's an excellent shotmaker."

The revamped rink saw some of that this past weekend at the $34,000 Red Deer Classic, which was won by Calgary's Shannon Kleibrink.

After stumbling out of the gates this season to a 7-9 record on the World Curling Tour, Sweeting's squad swept their first four games, winning an A-event qualifier in Red Deer. Only red-hot Cathy Overton-Clapham of Winnipeg stopped the defending provincial champs in their tracks, edging Sweeting 8-7 in a quarterfinal Monday.

Next up is this week's $60,000 Sobeys Slam in New Glasgow, N.S., a high-profile 32-team event on the World Curling Tour.

Sweeting is the only Alberta entry in the Maritimes spiel, and among big names she'll look to knock off are Overton- Clapham, Colleen Jones, Jennifer Jones, Amber Holland, Stefanie Lawton and Sherry Middaugh.

But she can draw off the experience of last season's provincial triumph -- including wins over Edmonton's Cathy King and Calgary's Shannon Kleibrink in respective semifinal and final draws -- for inspiration.

"You know you can do well," Sweeting added. "The experience we got from playing in big games against big competition helps us."

EXTRA ENDS

Kleibrink took home the title at the Red Deer Classic after topping Edmonton's Jessie Kaufman 7-3 in Monday's final. Kleibrink roared back with seven straight wins after losing her first two draws and dropping down to the C event and pocketed $9,500 wit the victory. Calgary's Crystal Webster made Monday's playoff round but lost to Jill Thurston of Winnipeg in a 5-4 quarterfinal. Like Sweeting, Webster swept through the 'A' event with four straight wins to earn a berth in the playoffs to earn $2,500. Among other Calgarians, Nadine Chyz and Lisa Eyamie posted 4-3 records. Meanwhile Nicole Blenkin finished 2-3, Cheryl Bernard, Tanilla Doyle and Shana Snell all finished 1-3 and Amanda White went 0-3 ... Calgary's Brent Bawel lost Monday's men's final in Red Deer 7-3 to B.C.'s Jason Montgomery. The runner-up finish nets the local rink $6,000. Bawel beat fellow Calgarian Brock Virtue 9-4 in a semifinal earlier Monday. Virtue, who pocketed $3,500, won four straight games to reach the semi, including an A-event qualifier. Also from Calgary, Dean Ross and Steve Petryk finished 1-3 and 0-3 respectively, while Airdrie's Aaron Sluchinski posted a 2-3 mark ... A four-end second put Alberta's Kevin Martin in a hole from which he could never recover in a quarterfinal draw at the $100,000 Grey Power World Cup of Curling spiel in Windsor, Ont. Martin dropped the 8-3 quarter to Winnipeg's Mike McEwen.

LAST ROCK

Red Deer will host the 2012 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, making it the fifth time the Canadian women's curling championship will be held in Alberta. The Scotties are slated for Feb. 18-26, 2012, at the Enmax Centrium.


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