February 13, 2011
High Noon in High River for Alberta curlers
By TERRY JONES, QMI Agency
HIGH RIVER — Hockey Day in Canada is over. Curling Day in Canada should follow Sunday with High Noon from High River, the centre ring of a three ring circus.
Can you imagine what a day TSN could put together with the finals in Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta — the provinces that have produced 24 of the Brier winners since 1980 — on the same day as they crown champions to proceed to London, Ont., and this year’s March 5-13 show?
Olympic champion Kevin Martin popped the bubble of 11th seed Geoff Walker of Grande Prairie with a 10-5 eight-set spanking of the 25-year-old surprise story in the 1-2 Page playoff game of the Boston Pizza Cup.
The win moved Martin to Sunday’s final where a win would send him to his 11th appearance at the Brier.
Walker will meet world champion Kevin Koe in Sunday’s semi-final.
Koe ran 23-year-old Brock Virtue, of Calgary, out of rocks in the 10th for a 6-3 win in the 3-4 game.
Since Kevin Martin fired Don Walchuk, Carter Rycroft and Don Bartlett and hired John Morris, Marc Kennedy and Ben Hebert, the Vancouver 2010 gold-medal winners haven’t lost a single game at the Boston Pizza Cup provincial playoffs.
They’ve won every A final.
They’ve won every 1-2 game.
And if they should win again Sunday, they’ll have won every final in the toughest province to win in the entire country.
That’s 5-0 in 2007, 5-0 in 2008, 5-0 in 2009 and now 4-0 this year, having been forced to miss last year’s event due to the conflict with the Olympic show about to go in Vancouver.
You can make a case that in a 580-seat band box of an arena, which has been sold out for every draw of the only provincials in the history of Canadian curling featuring the defending Olympic and world champions, that they will also be settling the 2011 Tim Horton’s Brier.
Koe winning the Brier last year made it eight Briers won by Alberta teams — Randy Ferbey 4, Martin 3 and Koe 1 — in the last 10 years.
That translates to there being an 80% chance the Brier will be won by somebody here this year?
If it’s Martin, where it says Alberta, you can change that to Edmonton. Before Koe won last year in Halifax, you had to go back to the 20th century to find somebody other than Martin or Ferbey who represented Alberta at the ultimate coast-to-coast sporting celebration of Canadiana.
That was Ken Hunka of Edmonton in 1999. And Tom Reed of Edmonton in 1998.
In 12 of the last 14 years, either Martin or Ferbey had skipped a team to the provincial title.
An Edmonton team has represented Alberta at the Brier every year since 1994 when Ed Lukowich of Calgary was the most recent team to come out of the South. A Calgary team hasn’t even made it to the final since that year.
And you have to go waaaaaaaay back to 1982 and Gary Morken of Grande Prairie to find somebody who came out of the Peace.
You have to go back to 1993 and Greg Ferster (4-7) of Leduc and to 1990 and Harold Breckenridge (4-7) of Calgary to find the last of the longshots to get to the Brier.
And all that was in play here Saturday.
With 25-year-old 11th seed Geoff Walker of Grand Prairie stunning the curling world by upsetting world champion Koe in the B final Friday night, an underdog in the showcase for The Showdown In Smallville (High River represented that burg in the movie Superman III) was guaranteed.
It was unusual to have both a Peace zone team and a Southern zone team in the final four, but Brock Virtue, the 23-year-old skip from Lethbridge and his team from Calgary, earned some credibility with an 8-2 win over Tom Appelman of Edmonton Saturday afternoon while Koe was forced to throw his last rock, a draw to backing, for a 6-5 win over Steve Petryk of Calgary.
As Koe was advancing to meet Virtue, brother Jamie Koe was qualifying for the Brier for the fifth time to represent the Territories where Pat Simmons of Saskatchewan, Francois Gagner of Quebec, James Grattan of New Brunswick, Eddie MacKenzie of Prince Edward Island, Shawn Adams of Nova Scotia and Brad Gushue of Newfoundland already wait, no doubt cheering for a longshot finally to come through in Alberta for a change.