Slippery start at Brier
Marc Kennedy and the rest of the Kevin Martin rink were looking to get back on track after one win and three losses prior to Tuesday's draw
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 06, 2013 06:00 am
Rexall Place – The Kevin Martin rink is between a rock and a hard spot after a disappointing 1-3 start at the Tim Hortons Brier.
It’s unfamiliar territory for the 2010 Olympic gold medallists, winners of the 2008 and 2009 Brier.
“We’re a front-running team. We like to be at the top of the standings so this is a different situation for us,” said a glum-looking Marc Kennedy, the southpaw second from St. Albert, after Brad Jacobs of Northern Ontario spanked the Alberta champions 8-1 in seven ends Monday afternoon.
Another loss would drop the Martin foursome out of contention to make the playoffs.
“It’s not the start we expected but we have to hang in there, grind it out and try and get a couple of wins under our belt and get some momentum going. That’s about all we can do,” Kennedy said. “It’s tough but we’re really trying to stay positive. We had a good chat (Sunday) and said whether we go 8-3 or 3-8, let’s just make sure that we’re putting on a show for the crowd and we’re not banging brooms and getting too angry – let’s just keep trying our best.”
The poster boys for the Edmonton Brier look like a team that would have trouble winning the St. Albert men’s bonspiel.
“We’re trying our hardest, we’re just on the wrong side of the inch right now. We’ve just got to keep staying positive and try and get out of this slump,” said Kennedy, a four-time Brier first team all-star.
Going into Tuesday’s draw, Martin ranked ninth among skips in shooting percentage at 76. John Morris was tied for sixth for thirds at 82 per cent, Kennedy was tied for seventh for seconds at 85 and John Hebert was tied for second for leads at 92.
“We’re a top contending team and we’ve kind of stunk out the building so far,” Kennedy said. “We just feel bad because the fans are out here cheering for us and expecting us to do well. They're still on our side though and we’re going to try and keep it that way. We’re going to keep playing hard and see what happens.”
The co-favourites to win the tankard in one of the strongest Brier fields in history got off to a shaky start in the Saturday night feature match against Jeff Stoughton of Manitoba. The 2011 Brier and world champion from Winnipeg won 5-4 with a steal of one in an extra end that saw Morris miss both his shots.
“We knew going in the first game was important, but win or lose we said we’ll try and not let it affect the rest of the week. However, when you have a tough game to start it makes the week a little tougher when you lose it,” said Kennedy, who shot a team-low 76 per cent in the loss.
Sunday the 2008 world champions lost 8-4 to Jean-Michel Menard after the Quebec rink counted three with the hammer in nine.
Kennedy, 31, shot 92 per cent against Quebec and in the next game, 10-3 in seven ends over Andrew Bilesky of British Columbia, was graded at 89 per cent.
Monday the Martin rink shot 79 per cent, compared to 96 per cent for Northern Ontario, while falling behind 3-0 in the first and 7-1 after five ends.
“They came out firing and we didn’t quite match their intensity,” said Kennedy, who was 88 per cent on the mark. “That first end wasn’t the way we wanted to start. You can’t give a team like that an early three and expect to win.”
It was also the fourth consecutive game in which Martin’s crew failed to win the draw for hammer prior to the contest.
As for the rocks, the Canadian Curling Association is using new stones at the Brier, which are the twin set that will be used at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. They have been in play only once before at last month’s junior nationals in Fort McMurray.
“They’re tricky for everyone,” Kennedy conceded. “We win games on precision and the soft shots and being very aggressive with draws, so when you have some tricky rocks sometimes that is hard to do. We’re doing our best to adjust to them but so far we’ve been struggling with it quite a bit.”
On the bright side, Kennedy won the 19th annual Ford Hot Shots competition Saturday, featuring six skill-testing shots: hit and stay, draw the button, draw the port, raise, hit and roll and double takeout. Each shot is awarded points on a scale from zero to five depending on the end result of the shot.
Kennedy’s prize was a two-year lease on a 2013 Ford Fusion, with an approximate retail value of $14,000.
“I can take some positives out of (the Brier) so far. I’m looking forward to driving a new car when this is all over,” said Kennedy, an RBC Olympic ambassador and Paul Kane High School alumnus.