Saskatchewan shoots for curling slam

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:18 PM ET

LONDON - Is it possible?

Could it happen?

Might the late, great curling province of Saskatchewan -- which hasn't won the Brier since 1980 -- hit for the cycle in Canadian curling this year?

Amber Holland won the Scotties. Braeden Moskowsky took the men's junior.

Trish Pausen captured the women's junior.

Can Steve Laycock win the Tim Hortons Brier, which opens Saturday, and make it an unprecedented clean sweep for the Combine Pilots?

"The province has been hot lately," said the third-rock-throwing former world junior champion who gets his name on the team which formerly carried that of Pat Simmons.

The name change begins with Saskatchewan's opening draw against Jamie Koe of the Territories.

"(The winning streak) started with football," Laycock said of the Saskatchewan Roughriders who have been in the Grey Cup three of the past four years and won one (and would have won two if it hadn't been for the 13th man).

This sort of success is a whole new storyline for the heartland of Canadian curling where there are more two-sheeters than any other province. It's an even bigger storyline than Harvey Mazinke and Vera Pezer winning Canadian men's and women's champions out of Saskatchewan in 1973, and Rick Folk and Marj Mitchell winning the same two titles in 1980.

"The question all the Saskatchewan teams have had to listen to in the past has been that no team has won since 1980," said Laycock, a 28-year-old human resources analysts at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

"We're not wanting that extra pressure."

But there's more.

The Ford world championships are scheduled April 2-10 in Regina.

"That would be unbelievable," he said.

In as tough a Tim Hortons Brier field as you could put together, Saskatchewan is viewed as a middle-of-the-pack outfit going in.

But it is a new-look for the team. Simmons skipped and threw last rocks for Saskatchewan teams at the Brier in 2005, in 2006 when it was held in Regina, as well as 2007 and 2008.

"We made the change to maximize our talents," Simmons, a 36-year-old curling chiropractor, said of Laycock who won the world junior championship in 2003 as a skip.

"He's comfortable there. I throw my two cents worth in there because it's me who has to throw those last two rocks. But it has worked out well. We've had a good year so far.

We've got some momentum. It has been a good move for us."

While the team has gone under Simmons' name all season, they knew it would change to Laycock's when the Brier began.

"We kept my name on it because of our sponsorship. But we knew when we got here we'd have to go by the book." Simmons said he likes Saskatchewan's schedule this year, opening with the Territories, playing Quebec and Ontario Sunday and Newfoundland and Nova Scotia Monday.

There's some balance there.

"In 2006 in Regina we opened with Kevin Martin, Glenn Howard and Jeff Stoughton, all in a row," he said.

"Games are tough to make up to move up the ladder later in the week."

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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