(By Rob Neff and Sarah Mendek)….
Gerry Austgarden’s British Columbia’s team, out of the Nanaimo Curling Club, needs a strong finish if it hopes to claim a spot in the playoffs. As one of the favourites coming into the competition, finishing out of the top four would be a major disappointment for the Vancouver Island foursome. At 3-4, B.C. sits in seventh place, but they are only one game out of a playoff position in the tight standings.
Nova Scotia (2-5) has won its last two games and is hoping to continue moving up the ladder. Richard Brown’s team, representing the Lakeshore Curling Club in lower Sackville, shocked Northern Ontario and Manitoba in back-to-back games and hopes to maintain that momentum to close out the tournament strong
Entering the crucial eighth draw, with playoffs looming, British Columbia can ill afford a fifth loss. In the first end, facing a pair of well separated Nova Scotia stones, B.C. skip Gerry Austgarden played a beautiful in turn draw to opening the scoring.
In the second, with a pair of B.C. rocks in the four-foot, courtesy of Allison Duddy and Ellis Tull, Nova Scotia’s Steve Parfitt threw a letter perfect double takeout and sat for shot. Facing four B.C. counters on his last rock, Nova Scotia skip Richard Brown played a clutch hit and roll for a single point.
With B.C. counting a pair in the third, Nova Scotia third Terry Cousineau executed a beautiful double takeout to get his team out of trouble. Ausgarden’s final draw caught the four-foot, forcing a measurement, but Nova Scotia came away with the point and a 2-1 lead.
Neither team could find the house in the fourth end until Terry Cousineau slid a shot to the edge of the four-foot. Skips then faced a rock pile in front with only one rock in the house. Austgarden played a beauty, raising his own rock onto Nova Scotia’s shot rock and sitting for shot himself. B.C. ties the game 2-2.
Out of the break a Nova Scotia rock biting the back of the four-foot proved trouble for Austgarden. With a chance to sit three, he couldn’t pick out that blue stone. Brown’s attempt to score a deuce over curled, but Nova Scotia regained the lead 3-2.
Sitting two in the sixth, Brown delivered a pair of guards to protect one of his two counters. Despite losing his stick one delivery, Ausstgarden picked off one, forcing Nova Scotia to settle for a single point.
In seven, Ellis Tull curled around a pair of Debbie Earle guards to find the high eight. Steve Parfitt promptly picked off her rock. Brown covered a Nova Scotia rock sitting on the button, leaving Austgarden with little to shoot at. Nova Scotia scores another point to lead 5-2. Nova Scotia simply played their opponent out of rocks in the eighth pick up their third straight win.
Elsewhere the playoff race really began to heat up. Ontario (5-3) improved its chances, topping the Northern Ontario Host Team (1-7) by a score of 9-1. Quebec (6-2) punched their ticket, while dealing Northern Ontario’s (4-4) chances a serious blow. Quebec broke open a tie game after six ends to win 8-6. In a battle of heavyweights, Alberta (7-1) stopped Manitoba (4-5) by a 6-4 count. Saskatchewan (6-2) secured their playoff spot by beating 1-7 Newfoundland/Labrador 9-3.
Round robin play concludes Friday morning.
Following the round robin, the top four teams will advance to the Page Playoff System. The team finishing first will play the second place team with the winner of that game advancing to Sunday’s championship final. The third place team will play the fourth place team in a sudden death game. The winner advances to the semi final against the loser of the 1 vs. 2 game while the loser is out. The winner of the semi final advances to the final.
Page Playoff games will be played Saturday, March 23 at 10:30am and 2:30pm EST, while the semi final is scheduled for Sunday morning at 10:30am and the championship final will be at 2:30pm EST the same day.