Bernard takes aim at Martin in TSN Skins

TODD SAELHOF, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 8:49 PM ET

Cheryl Bernard isn’t afraid of a little wager or two.

In fact, this coming weekend, you’ll find her sitting in on a few hands of blackjack at Ontario’s famed Casino Rama.

But the big money is out on the casino’s ice sheet, playing her game against the big boys of curling. She figures soft touch and precision will go a long ways to upsetting Kevin Martin & Co. in the Saturday’s semifinals (6 p.m.) of the 2011 TSN Curling Skins Game.

“They’ve got more to lose than we do,” Bernard said about her first TSN Skins appearance against the fellow Olympians from Alberta. “They don’t want to get beat by girls.”

Ah … yes, Saturday’s showcase stirs up the age-old question of men vs. women in sport — and more.

It’s Olympian vs. Olympian. And it’s arguably the two best rinks of their respective genders.

“One thing about the Skins is that you could lose the first six ends yet win seven and eight, and if that happens, you win,” Martin told QMI Agency of the ends with an escalating dollar value. “Skins can really be anybody’s game.

“And if we lose ...are you kidding? As long as I curl, I’d never hear the end of it.”

So, yes, it’s certainly a gamble Bernard, third Susan O’Connor, second Carolyn Darbyshire and lead Cori Morris are willing to take.

“Is it intimidating? No,” Bernard said. “We’re looking forward to playing the best men’s team in the world.

“Our chances? I don’t know. Even if we only get two or three skins, that’ll still be pretty good.

“Shot-making ability and between-the-ears stuff is the same (when comparing male and female curlers). It’s the sweeping and the big weight shots that we can’t match,” said Bernard, who jokes about strapping a couple of hundred pound weight jackets to front-end teammates Morris and Darbyshire to give them as much power on the broom as Martin’s hulking all-world lead, Ben Hebert.

“They can sweep and throw that much harder — it’s just physical.

“So we have to better with our precision.”

In the end, she doesn’t want to get shutout of the $100,000 up for grabs during the weekend event, featuring Bernard, Martin — the top TSN Skins earner in history with $355,850 — Kevin Koe and David Murdoch.

Reigning world champion Koe plays defending Skins king Murdoch in Saturday’s other semi (11 a.m.). The semi winners play in the final Sunday at 11 a.m. on TSN.

“We don’t get to play skins very often — I’ve played six or seven times in my life,” Bernard said. “It’s a really good opportunity for us. It’s different than the normal game. It’s a different strategy — you can’t worry about how many rocks are in the house, and you can’t be as defensive you might normally be, and we’re a defensive-minded team.

“I love skins, but the last people I’d want to pick to play against are these guys. That said, anything can happen.”

Extra ends

Brock Virtue has grabbed southern Alberta’s final berth for the upcoming provincial championships. His 8-4 double-up of fellow Calgarian Brent Bawel in Monday’s C final of the men’s southerns sends Virtue, third J.D. Lind, second Dominic Daemen and lead Matt Ng onto battle for the Alberta title, Feb. 9-13 in High River. The field also includes southerns A- and B-final winners Steve Petryk (Calgary) and Terry Meek (Calgary), defending champ Kevin Koe (Edmonton), Olympic gold medallist Kevin Martin (Edmonton), Alberta Curling Tour qualifiers Don Walchuk (Edmonton) and Rob Schlender (Edmonton) and Peace River qualifiers Graham Powell (Sexsmith) and Geoff Walker (Grande Prairie). Three additional teams will be determined this week at the northerns … The masters men districts wrapped up Monday in Airdrie, where a dozen squads qualified for the next stage in the provincial playdowns. After winning spots over the weekend, the over-60 winners were Doug McIntyre (Calgary Curling), Larry Taylor (Coaldale), Ed Grotkowski (North Hill), Lorne Danielson (Inglewood), Gil Schmaltz (North Hill), Garry Clarke (Lethbridge), George Drabath (Calgary Curling), Dave Rutherford (Inglewood/Glencoe), Bill Vermette (North Hill), Wayne Barrowcliffe (Calgary Winter), Wilmur Sanders (Inglewood) and Doug Campbell (Cochrane), and they all head to southerns, Feb. 4-7 in Black Diamond.

Last rock

Sixteen rinks, including Paul Goswell (Calgary Winter), Lloyd Hill (Calgary Curling) and Mickey Pendergast (Inglewood) compete for three provincial spots during the senior men’s southerns Friday through Monday at the Acadia Recreation Centre. Eight senior women’s squads, including Diane Foster (Calgary Winter/Brooks) and Peggy Harper (Calgary Curling) vie for three provincial spots at the ARC-hosted southerns, as well. Qualifiers make their way to the Calgary Curling Club for the senior men’s and women’s provincials, Feb. 16-20… The first step in the juvenile boys’ playdowns goes Friday through Sunday, as the districts for curlers age 17-and-under are hosted by the Crowsnest Curling Club in Coleman.

todd.saelhof@sunmedia.ca


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