(By Rob Neff and Sarah Mendek)
Two teams bent on redemption squared off in the second draw of the Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championships Monday afternoon. Team Quebec, skipped by Benoit Lessard, was looking to rebound from a first round loss to B.C., while Darwin Bender’s Saskatchewan foursome, out of the Regina Curling Club, was coming off a loss to Alberta. Both teams were painfully aware that a second loss could mean a steep uphill battle for the rest of the week.
Lessard capped the opening end with a perfect takeout and sat on the button to put Quebec up 1-0. The second end was a clinic in the hit and stick game. A masterful double takeout by vice Gil Dash left Saskatchewan lying one, but his Quebec counterpart Carl Marquis promptly rolled off the Saskatchewan counter to sit in the eight foot. Both skips exchanged hit and stick masterpieces. On his final shot, Lessard took advantage of a fortuitous rub off a Saskatchewan guard in slipped into the house to knot the game 1-1.
Blessed with the hammer in the third, Bender took out a Quebec counter to score a deuce Trailing 3-1, Quebec opted for an aggressive approach in end four. Lead Johanne Daly and second Sebastien Boisvert put rocks in the house right away, only to see them knocked out by Saskatchewan vice Gil Dash. Bender was really on his draw game and froze to his own stone lying shot, while Lessard’s final shot was picked off by a guard. Saskatchewan scored two for a 5-1 lead at the midway break.
But Quebec was far from done. Lessard’s tough takeout through a maze of guards left Quebec scoring two in the fifth. The teams traded single points in the sixth and seventh, setting the stage for a dramatic eighth end. Johanne Daly and Sebastiuen Boisvert set guards out front to open the end.
With Quebec sitting one, Lessard put his second shot into the back of the house. Bender underthrew his attempted takeout, leaving Quebec with a pair and a 6-6 tie, setting up an extra end.
The tension was palpable as Boisvert drew to the back of the eight foot. A perfect hit and stick by Marie Wright had Saskatchewan sitting two. Bender’s first rock was a thing of beauty, kissing his shot rock and nestling comfortably beside it on a piece of the button. Without the hammer, Lessard needed a miracle. His final shot caught one of the Saskatchewan counters, leaving the other untouched. Final score…Saskatchewan 7, Quebec 6.
The win gives Saskatchewan some momentum to build on, according to skip Darwin Bender. “I just wish I’d made that shot in the eighth end,” he reflects. “But overall our draws were better than the first game. We just have to keep getting better.”
In other second round action, defending champion Manitoba proved they are still a force to be reckoned with, winning their second straight 10-2 over Northern Ontario. Alberta beat Nova Scotia 11-0. British Columbia topped the Host Team 8-5, while Ontario defeated Newfoundland and Labrador 11-1. B.C., Ontario and Alberta join Manitoba at 2-0.