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Kennedy ends Brier on high note

St. Albert product voted second-team all-star second as the Kevin Martin rink finishes fifth at 7-4

By: Jeff Hansen

  |  Posted: Tuesday, Mar 12, 2013 02:45 pm

BRIER ALL-STAR - Marc Kennedy delivers a rock for the Kevin Martin rink at the Tim Hortons Brier at Rexall Place. The St. Albert Curling Club product was voted to the second all-star team after shooting 90 per cent, second best among seconds, for the fifth-place 7-4 Alberta reps in the round robin. It was the fifth Brier appearance for the Paul Kane High School alumnus.
BRIER ALL-STAR - Marc Kennedy delivers a rock for the Kevin Martin rink at the Tim Hortons Brier at Rexall Place. The St. Albert Curling Club product was voted to the second all-star team after shooting 90 per cent, second best among seconds, for the fifth-place 7-4 Alberta reps in the round robin. It was the fifth Brier appearance for the Paul Kane High School alumnus.
APRIL BARTLETT/St. Albert Gazette

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Rexall Place - It came down to the last shot in an extra end in the final round-robin game at the Tim Hortons Brier to determine the fate of the Kevin Martin rink.

A successful draw by Manitoba skip Jeff Stoughton despite a chorus of catcalls from the pro-Alberta fans prevented a tie-breaker scenario between the two teams for the fourth and last spot in the Page playoffs.

The Martin foursome stumbled out of gate in spectacular fashion at 1-4 before catching lighting in a bottle to challenge for a playoff berth, culminating with a 6-5 nail-biter against Glenn Howard of Ontario in the Friday night finale.

Not only was it Howard’s first loss at the Brier, it put the pressure on Stoughton (8-3) to defeat Andrew Bilesky (1-10) of B.C. on the next sheet after the Manitoba skip missed with the hammer in the 10th end, a hit-and-stick that rolled too far to give up a steal of one.

The Alberta and Ontario rinks stayed at ice level after their game ended on a clutch draw by Martin to watch Stoughton's last shot unfold.

“That was exciting for everyone. Even though we’re knocked out that was great,” said a surprisingly upbeat Marc Kennedy, Martin’s second from St. Albert, after Alberta was eliminated in dramatic fashion in Manitoba’s 6-5 win over B.C.

“It was fun and kind of exciting to know that we still had a chance but it’s always tough when you’re relying on other teams,” Kennedy said. “You never know what you’re going to get.”

The two-time Brier winning rink of Martin, third John Morris and Kennedy and Ben Hebert at the front end looked like they were done after their fourth loss, 6-5 to James Gratton (5-6) of New Brunswick on Tuesday afternoon, before rattling off six straight wins.

“Three days ago I would’ve said it was a huge long shot to be in this position but it came right down to the last shot, so to have a sniff of being in was exciting,” Kennedy said. “We’re pretty proud of our team, the way we responded from a pretty tough first couple of days and how we really got things going. It’s too bad we didn’t make the playoffs. We’re playing really well. We would’ve had a chance to win this thing but we just dug ourselves too big a hole.”

The poster boys of the Edmonton Brier, rated the deepest and most talented in the event’s storied 84-year history, took the slow start to heart.

“We’ve been pretty disappointed for the last five days,” Kennedy said. “It sucks but we did the best we could with a 1-4 record.”

A demoralizing 5-4 loss to Stoughton in the opening night’s feature match, which ended with Morris unable to make two shots in the extra end that opened the door for Manitoba to steal the winning point, left the 2010 Olympic gold medallists scrambling to recover.

The turnaround started with a soul-searching session following the fourth loss.

“We said no matter what happens let’s just stay positive and keep the crowd in it because we don’t want to lose them. There had been Briers in the past where the hometown crowd has booed the hometown team so we wanted to keep our heads up. We made it our goal to put on a show for the fans and give them something to cheer about and I think we accomplished that,” said Kennedy, who shot a surprisingly low 76 per cent in the loss to Manitoba.

In the last day of the round robin, the 2008 world champions played up to their high standards to edge Brad Gushue (8-3) of Newfoundland/Labrador 6-5 with a critical deuce in 10 and Howard (10-1), the 2012 Brier and world champion who settled for third place this year.

“We were really happy the game against Howard meant something. You don’t want to play those guys when there is nothing on the line because if you’re not sharp they will kill you,” Kennedy said. “To beat them and play well and still know that we still have that level of play in a big game is good going into the (Olympic) trials for sure. It gives us a boost of confidence even though we didn’t make the playoffs.”

The Martin rink will now regroup for the eight-team Olympic trials for the right to represent Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Martin, Howard and Stoughton have already pre-qualified for the Dec. 1 to 8 event in Winnipeg.

Also on tap are two World Curling Tour events in Grande Prairie and Victoria, plus the Players’ Championship next month in Toronto to close out the season.

“Oh yeah, this will help us for sure. You always learn more from the losses than the wins so we will debrief after this event and think of where things went good and why things went poorly and try and recover because the big goal for this team is the Olympic trials and an event like this can only help us overcome some adversity,” Kennedy said.

The Ford Hot Shots winner of a two-year lease of a 2013 Ford Fusion shot 84 per cent against Ontario and 90 per cent overall, including a perfect 100 in Thursday’s 7-2 win in seven ends against Eddie Mackenzie (2-9) of Prince Edward Island, to finish second overall behind Ontario’s Brent Laing’s 93 per cent among seconds in the round robin.

Martin was fourth best among skips at 84 per cent, Morris finished fifth for thirds at 86 and Hebert tied for fourth at 91 for leads.

As a team, the Alberta reps were third overall at 88 per cent.

Kennedy, a first team all-star at second in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011, was honoured with a second-team all-star selection in voting by the Canadian Curling Reporters.

The fifth Brier of his hall-of-fame career was memorable for several reasons.

“I will remember the really disappointing start. We’ve never had that before so that was really hard to overcome but the high of the last day and a half of getting this close to the playoffs is something I will remember as well,” said Kennedy, 31, one of the inaugural six inductees into the St. Albert Curling Club's wall of fame in 2011.

HOG LINES: Brad Jacobs of Northern Ontario defeated Stoughton 11-4 in nine ends in Sunday’s final.

Jacobs finished 8-3 in the round robin, thanks to a last rock hit-and-stick for three in 10 to beat Paul Flemming (1-10) of Nova Scotia 5-2 to make the playoffs.

In the 3-4 game Jacobs counted the winning point with the last shot in the extra end to beat Gushue 6-5 and in the semifinal defeated Howard 9-7.

Stoughton advanced to the final with a three in 10 to knock off Howard 7-6 in the 1-2 game.

Total attendance at the nine-day Brier was 190,113, the eighth-highest figure of all time.


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