Canada Cup comes calling

ROD KELLY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:17 AM ET

CALGARY - The Season of Champions is back and Canadian curling fans certainly have good reason to stay tuned to the first event on this season’s schedule, the 2011 Capital One Canada Cup of Curling.

Fourteen of the nation’s top teams — in both men’s and women’s competition — have earned the right to do battle in Cranbrook, B.C., Nov. 30-Dec. 4.

Event manager Terry Morris said playing host to the Canada Cup showdown is certainly a coup for curling in southern B.C., especially considering the tournament offers both the men’s and women’s champion a spot at the 2013 Canadian Olympic Trials, the Roar of the Rings, in Winnipeg.

It is at the 2013 Trials where Canada’s men’s and women’s entries for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia will be determined.

It quickly becomes clear the stakes all of a sudden increase immensely for teams competing in the B.C. event next week.

“That’s really what they are playing for,” Morris said of the qualification spot to the Trials.

“A berth to the Olympic Trials, right away, that makes this an exciting 'spiel,” Morris said. “For the teams playing, and for fans watching.”

While the champions of the Cranbrook cashspiel do earn $25,000, Morris said it’s difficult to put a price-tag on how important a trip to the Trials is for today’s leading rinks.

Included in the seven-team women’s draw is Calgary’s Shannon Kleibrink, who has twice skipped teams to victories at the event.

Kleibrink joins six of Canada’s other top women’s rinks, a tournament list that includes current national women’s champion Amber Holland of Kronau, Sask.; Saskatoon’s Stefanie Lawton; Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones; Chelsea Carey of Morden, Man.; Edmonton’s Heather Nedohin and Ottawa’s Rachel Homan.

On the men’s side, Alberta is represented by two rinks, Edmonton’s Kevin Koe and reigning Olympic gold medallist Kevin Martin, whose rink includes third John Morris of Chestermere, second Marc Kennedy of Edmonton and lead Ben Hebert of Chestermere.

Reigning world champion Jeff Stoughton of Winnipeg and fellow Winnipeg rival Mike McEwen will make the trek to Cranbrook, as will Coldwater, Ont.’s Glenn Howard, Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.’s Brad Jacobs and Saskatoon’s Steve Laycock.

Klebrink’s rink of third Amy Nixon, second Bronwen Webster and lead Chelsey Matson won the Canada Cup together in 2009 and finished third last year.

Third Nixon said this season has been a challenging one so far, but drawing on the rink’s success at past Canada Cups will be important for the Calgary rink.

While the team has failed to qualify at its past two Asham World Curling Tour events, Nixon said the fact the Cranbrook ’spiel takes place at one venue, on one ice surface, is something to look forward to.

In Brantford, Ont., last weekend, the Kleibrink rink competed on three different ice surfaces, and prior to that, it played on two surfaces in Red Deer.

All games in Cranbrook will go at the city’s Rec Plex.

“That’s good,” said Nixon. “As far as ice-reading, and playing on more consistent ice is concerned.”

Woes out east continue

For Alberta’s Kevin Martin, there’s just something not so nice about playing in Ontario.

That’s how team third John Morris recently described the team’s success out east, and its most recent showing in Ontario is more proof games there have equated to difficulties for the world-class rink.

“It seems like every time we get out of Ontario we start to play the way we’re supposed to play,” Morris said.

“We struggle in Ontario. We’re not sure why.”

Morris made that observation after the rink’s semifinals loss at the GP Car and Home World Cup of Curling in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. in early November.

This past weekend, Martin & Co. failed to reach the playoff round at the Sun Life Classic in Brantford, Ont.

Maybe upcoming 'spiels closer to home will turn the tide.

Districts on tap

It’s all systems go for this weekend’s junior men’s districts at Calgary’s North Hill Curling Club, Nov. 26-27.

Teams competing are Michael Roy (Airdrie), Scott Smith (Garrison), Matt Romero (Airdrie), Dylan Webster (Sundre), Kyler Kleibrink (Okotoks), Spencer Higgs (Strathmore), Jeremy Harty (Nanton), Andrew Dunbar (Lethbridge), Denton Koch (Medicine Hat), Mitchell Parsons (Nanton), Dylan Garinger (Coaldale), Nick Olson (Calgary CC), Josh Carroll (Oyen) and Evan Lewis (North Hill CC).

Sudbury heartbreaker

Grande Prairie’s Kurt Balderston lost a heartbreaker to Saskatchewan’s Jason Ackerman in the championship final at last week’s Canadian Mixed Curling Championship in Sudbury, Ont.

Ackerman scored a deuce in the ninth and stole singles in the 10th and another in the extra end for the win.

Win for Middaugh

This weekend’s winners on the men’s and women’s Asham World Curling Tour schedule were Coldwater, Ont.’s Sherry Middaugh (Sun Life Classic), Sweden’s Niklas Edin (Sun Life Classic) and New Westminster, B.C.’s Brent Pierce (Wainwright Roaming Buffalo Classic).


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