February 8, 2011
'Re-energized' Rajala ready to rock
By JIM WALLACE, QMI Agency
GRIMSBY — The way Howard Rajala sees it, life can’t be bad if you’re out on a curling sheet.
And it really doesn’t matter when and where.
It’s just extra icing on the cake that the Rideau Curling Club rink is competing at the 2011 The Dominion Tankard at the Peach King Centre this week.
Even after a 9-5 loss to Mark Kean of the Annandale Country Club in Tuesday’s afternoon draw didn’t put him in a bad frame of mind heading into an evening match with five-time Ontario champion Glenn Howard of Coldwater.
“The field is really good,” the 48-year-old engineer from Kanata said moments after stepping off the ice. “You know it’s going to be a battle every game and it’s going to be close, but it’s just such a treat to play on the ice.
“It swings, it’s quick. It’s just a a lot of fun to play in an arena. I love that.”
And Rajala has seen his share of Tankards. He played second and third for Rich Moffatt in seven Ontario championship events (winning the provincial title in 1999) before deciding to branch out with his own rink in 2003.
“We had a lot of good games and good runs,” he said of the Moffatt years, “but it had kind of run its course. It was 2003 when I started skipping and actually made the provincials (finishing in sixth place).
“And we made it back in 2008. It’s nice to make it (this year).”
Rajala’s previous third moved to another team this year and J.P. Lachance of Orleans moved into that spot, curling after second Jeffrey Henderson and Craig Cordiner, both of Ottawa.
“(He) brought in a different attitude and kind of re-energized the guys,” Rajala said.
That energy played instant dividends. The rink went 9-3 heading to its regional playdowns, won the B side of the zone championship and lost in the semifinal.
The foursome then won The Tankard Challenge Round East in Oshawa, going undefeated while playing the minimum number of games and
knocking off such notables as Mike Harris and Wayne Middaugh along the way.
Those wins, however, weren’t quite as big a confidence booster as one would think.
“It helped,” Rajala said, “but I’ve been curling forever and we’ve played against those guys a lot. They’re good teams and you get up for the games.”
The biggest key? Don’t be in awe of those players, or even the Glenn Howards.
“Exactly. Besides, I’m too old for that,” he said with a laugh.
Not old enough, however, to be contemplating retirement from the sport.
“I do hope I have a few years left; I really enjoy the sport. I haven’t thought about it at all. I’m just enjoying the moment here.”
In other games Tuesday afternoon, John Epping of the Donalda Curling Club defeated Peter Corner of Brampton 8-2 in five ends; Howard took just three ends to dispose of Jake Higgs of the Harriston Curling Club 11-2; Chris Gardner of the Renfrew Curling Club was a 12-7 winner over Dale Matchett of the Bradford and District Curling Club; and Greg Baldsdon of the Loonie Curling Club defeated Nick Rizzo of the Brantford Golf and Country Club 8-5.
After three draws, Balsdon is 2-0 and Corner, Gardner, Howard, Kean and Matchett are 2-1. Mark Bice, who had a bye Tuesday afternoon, and Epping are 1-1 and Rajala fell to 1-2. Higgs and Rizzo are both winless in three starts.
Rajala’s luck wasn’t any better in the evening draw, losing 7-1 to Howard in six ends.
In other games, it was: Balsdon 10, Matchett 6; Epping 9, Higgs 3; Corner 8, Mark Bice of the Sarnia Golf and Curling Club 5; and Gardner 5, Kean 4.
Balsdon is still undefeated through four draws with a 3-0 record (he had a bye Monday night) and Corner and Howard are tied for second at 3-1. At 2-1 are Gardner and Epping and Kean and Matchett are 2-2. Bice is 1-2, Rajala 1-3, Rizzo 0-3 and Higgs 0-4.
It’s a busy day for the curlers Wednesday with draws at 9 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and two more draws take place Thursday and Friday to complete the round robin.