We saw the start of the Page playoffs today with Ontario taking on Quebec in the 3 vs 4 game. Ontario took the lead with a steal of one in the first. Facing four Quebec stones, Ontario's Ideson nudged one back to sit shot. When Lessard raised one of his guards onto Ideson's rock, it looked like a single for Quebec; but after a measure was taken another point was added and Quebec took two to go ahead.
The teams traded single points for the next three ends. Neither team could take control in the 6th and Ideson, not wishing to take a single, threw away his final rock to blank.
Late in the 7th end Quebec called time out to decide whether to protect against Ontario drawing or raising. The decision was to put a guard on the raise. Ideson was left with an open draw to the 8 foot and he put it in the 4 foot.
The question is often asked, "Would you rather be 1 down with the hammer or 1 up without?" We do not know what answer Mark Ideson would have given to this question prior to being in that position today; but he certainly took advantage of going into the 8th end one down without the hammer.
By drawing behind cover to the top of the 8 foot, Ideson put pressure on Lessard to make an open draw and take the win. Unfortunately, he was light on his attempt and Ontario stole one to send the game into an extra end.
In the extra end and with Ontario sitting with 3 counters, all the Quebec skip, Benoit Lessard, had left to him was an "in off" for the win. The crowd in the viewing gallery watched in amazement as the rock slid toward its finish. After hitting its target it rolled toward its intended finish. Groans and cheers were heard throughout the rink when the stone came to rest just short of the Ontario rock and Ontario escaped with another extra end win.
In the other game, 1 vs 2, both Alberta and Saskatchewan had difficulty finding their weight on a consistent basis for the first two ends which resulted in two straight blank ends. In both ends the Leads and Seconds traded hits - sometimes sticking and sometimes rolling away and in both ends Alberta could have drawn into an empty house but, Bruno Yizek, the Alberta skip opted to throw his rock away to retain the hammer and try for a multiple point end later.
Late in the 3rd end, Saskatchewan was able to split the house forcing Yizek to either draw inside the Saskatchewan shot rock or remove one of them. When he was able to do neither, Saskatchewan drew first blood with a steal of two.
In the last end before the break, the Saskatchewan skip, Darwin Bender attempted to cap an Alberta rock that was too well guarded to remove. When his rock slid gently past the Alberta stone, Yizek drew in to grab the deuce for which he had been searching.
Both teams got back to wonderful shot making after the break. When it came time for Bender to throw his last rock, his team was sitting with two counters and a possible third if he hit and stuck on the Alberta rock at the back of the house. He did hit the rock but a little to one side and he rolled out gaining back the two point lead.
In the 6th end, Yizek hit and stuck on the only granite in the house, Bender's last rock, to take a single.
In the next end, Yizek made a beautiful hit and roll behind a wall of granite guards to steal another single and tie the game but it meant he did not have the hammer coming home.
The final end in this game was as exciting as the final end in the morning game only this time it was in the 8th end. Several guards in front of the house protected the Alberta shot rock at the back of the 4 foot. There was a port which could permit access to the stone so Yizek narrowed it. Similar to the final stone of the morning game Bender was left with a difficult shot to move or remove the shot rock and, as was the case earlier, the spectators anxiously watched as the shot was made. It made its way through the narrow opening and headed for the Alberta stone. It wasn't until the chunk of granite slipped past the shot rock that people began to applaud the excellent display of curling they had just observed.