February 5, 2013
John Epping's rink off to a good start at Ontario Tankard
By STEVE GREEN, QMI Agency
BARRIE, ONT. - When the Ontario men’s curling championship rolls around, at least for the last half-dozen years or so, the talk always turns to which team has the best chance to stop Glenn Howard.
This year, the pundits have anointed John Epping of Toronto Donalda as the most likely candidate and he’s not about to disagree.
Epping and his rink of Scott Bailey, Scott Howard (Glenn’s son) and David Mathers got the Dominion Tankard off to a good start Monday at the Molson Centre, taking a 5-1 lead after four ends and cruising to a 6-2 win over Howard Rajala of Ottawa Rideau in their opener, then scoring three multiple ends in a 7-5 night win over Joe Frans of Bradford.
And the man he and everyone else here is chasing is also at 2-0 after a pair of convincing wins. Howard scored a four in the fourth end of a 7-2 win over Wayne Tuck of Brant and followed that up by stealing his first four points in an 8-1 win over Rob Rumfeldt of Guelph.
Still, Epping isn’t feeling any heat.
“We’ve played in so many Grand Slam events over the last couple of years where we haven’t been favoured, but where we did well, like last year’s (WCT) Players championship (which Epping won),” he said. “There’s no pressure there. We believe we can win this and we want to win this. I would have stayed at work this week if I knew I was going to come second.”
Epping’s rink is coming off a tough go two weeks ago at the National in Port Hawkesbury, N.S., where they went 1-4 in the Grand Slam event. All told, though, it’s been a pretty good season as the team is ninth on the WCT money list with $29,400 and sits seventh on the tour’s Order of Merit.
“The ice was a bit tricky there and we haven’t been playing a swell lately as we were earlier this year, but we’re ready for this week,” Epping said. “There’s no lack of talent on this team and each of us is capable of getting hot at any time. Now, though, we just have to be consistent. It’s all about getting into the playoffs and getting to Sunday.”
Epping is only 29, but he has an Ontario junior crown, two Ontario mixed championships and a national mixed title to his CV already. This is his sixth Ontario men’s finals and with that experience comes self-confidence.
“To beat the top teams, you can’t be intimidated when you’re out there with them,” he said. “When I used to play the (Kevin) Martins and the Glenn Howards, it was just a matter of trying to only lose by a couple. Now you play to beat them, because who cares if you lose by 10 or by one.”
Bailey was the long-time third for Wayne Middaugh, winning a Brier and world title with him in 1998. Middaugh is now Glenn Howard’s third and Bailey has taken to playing the back end with ease, Epping said.
“Experience, obviously,” is what Bailey brings, Epping said. “He’s got a great touch, great draw weight, but what a lot of people don’t know is he can also throw the big weight. To me, he was the best lead ever to play the game and he’s a good calming factor for me, because I can get a little wiry out there.”
Scott Howard was his father’s fifth man at last year’s Brier and worlds, “so he’s got a pretty good chance at going again, either way,” Epping joked.
Pat Ferris of Grimsby is also 2-0 as he stole two in the ninth and one in the 10th to beat Jake Higgs of Harriston 7-5 and then drew a piece of the four-foot against three for one in the 10th to beat Darryl Prebble of Toronto Royal Canadian 7-6.
Frans, Rumfeldt, Tuck and Rajala are 1-1, Dayna Deruelle of Brampton and Bryan Cochrane of Ottawa City View are 0-1 while Higgs and Prebble are 0-2.
In the other second-draw games, Rajala scored two in the 11th to beat Higgs 8-6 after Higgs had stolen two in the 10th to tie it and Tuck scored three in the eighth and stole two in the ninth to beat Cochrane 9-4
Elsewhere in the first draw, Frans scored a three in the eighth to seal a 7-2 win over Deruelle and Rumfeldt of Guelph stole one in the ninth and two in the 10th to beat Prebble 6-3.