Alberta advantage at nationals
St. Albert rinks skipped by Wade White and Deb Santos in playoff contention at Canadian senior 50-plus championships
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Mar 23, 2013 06:00 am
The Alberta men’s and women’s champions from the St. Albert Curling Club were in the playoff hunt with one day remaining in the round robin at the senior 50-plus nationals at Summerside, P.E.I.
After Thursday’s draw, the Wade White rink was tied with Prince Edward Island and Ontario for second place at 7-2 and the Deb Santos’ rink shared second spot with Quebec at 7-3.
The top three teams make the playoffs. The winners of Sunday’s finals will represent Canada at worlds next year at a site and date to be announced by the World Curling Federation.
In Friday’s draw Santos, third Jackie Rae Greening, second Diana Backer and lead Glenna Rubin played Northern Ontario (6-4) and White, third Doug McLennan, second Dan Holowaychuk and lead George Parsons curled against Saskatchewan (3-6) and Northern Ontario (2-7). Scores were unavailable at press time.
Visit www.curling.ca for results and playoff schedules.
Santos kept Alberta’s playoff hopes alive Thursday night with a 5-4 decision against Cathy Inglis (5-5) of Saskatchewan. After Inglis counted one in eight to tie and stole one in nine, Santos scored a deuce in 10 for the team’s fourth-straight victory.
“Our destiny is in our own hands for sure,” Greening said Thursday afternoon, after stepping off the ice following a come-from-behind 7-6 victory over Karen Lepine (4-6) of British Columbia. “We have to win out to get a playoff berth. Nova Scotia (10-0) is still out front and Quebec losing (8-6 to Manitoba) today kind of helped us.”
Santos started off nationals with three victories against teams now in the bottom half of the standings, followed by three losses.
“We really weren’t as sharp as we should’ve been but we’re definitely playing a lot better than we were initially,” Greening said.
The playoff picture looked bleak for Santos after falling behind 5-0, all on steals by B.C., in the opening five ends. A deuce in six and a steal of one in seven cued the comeback. After B.C. scored one in eight, Santos rallied with deuces in nine and 10.
“It was a huge win. When you get down 5-0 after the first five ends it’s not good. We weren’t putting any pressure at all on the opposition’s skip and once we started to do that she started to give us the breaks,” Greening said.
White extended Alberta’s winning streak to five games by defeating Craig Lepine (3-6) of B.C. 7-5 on Thursday afternoon.
“We’re going better as a foursome now,” said McLennan, prior to the game against B.C. “Of course when you get up in the leader board a bit, people start to take you a little more seriously too.”
Another loss would jeopardize Alberta’s playoff fortunes.
“I like to call it the bleeding edge,” McLennan said. “Three losses could be tough, depending on what happens. Four losses would be jail.”
Alberta got its game together after a 2-2 start. Three of the last five wins were in an extra end – 9-8 against Allan O’Leary of Nova Scotia (three in 10 for White and in 11 stole the winning point), 8-6 against Howard Rajala of Ontario (White counted three in nine, Ontario replied with a deuce in 10 and Alberta won it with a deuce in 11) and 8-7 against Bob Sigurdson of Manitoba (a deuce in nine for White, Manitoba tied it with a deuce in 10 and Alberta counted the winner in 11).
“We’re playing with a little more confidence now,” McLennan said. “We lost to P.E.I. in the opener (9-7), a real stinky one. New Brunswick has kind of got on a roll (at 8-1) after they beat us. We thought we should’ve beat them, but we didn’t (and lost 9-7 to go 2-2). Since then it’s been going pretty good.”
The calibre of competition at nationals is at a high level.
“There is a lot of people here we use to play against at Scotties. It’s funny; they got old along with us,” said Greening, who curled with Santos at the Scotties in 1990, 1991 and 2003.
“There are a lot of guys here that have been to Briers, especially out of the east,” McLennan added. “Outside of a couple of teams, the field is real good. You don’t fall asleep on anything and you can see that in the standings. There are an awful lot of guys beating each other up now. There are some pretty good provinces that haven’t been doing all that well and they’re playing for pride right now.”
The Alberta teams have struggled at times with the ice and the rocks at the Silver Fox Curling & Yacht Club.
“Everybody has been having a lot of fun with that. It’s not ideal conditions by any stretch of the imagination but things are starting to settle down now,” McLennan said.
“The ice is challenging. We’re fighting the ice just a little bit but it’s going to be better I’m sure, heading into the last couple of games,” Greening added. “The biggest thing with the ice is we just have to keep it simple because you can’t make finesse shots on it. If you have to make finesse shots or that perfect shot, it’s very difficult on this ice.”
The flu bug has taken its toll on and off the ice for the men’s team.
“We’re as sick as dogs,” said McLennan, who almost coughed out a lung during the phone interview. “We’ve all got this cold. Danny had it for a couple of weeks and gave it to all of us. If we hadn’t been sick we would’ve had a better time but it’s not over yet.”
Greening’s booming radio voice was also reduced to a whisper because of the flu.
“That’s what I’m fighting right now unfortunately, but it’s not as bad as the men’s team,” said the member of the St. Albert Curling Club wall of fame.
The event has been a first-class affair, according to the Alberta curlers.
“It’s real great. You’re piped on every draw and the crowds have been good. The people out here are super-friendly and everybody is so helpful,” McLennan said.
The highlight for Greening is the lobster.
“We’ve ordered it again tonight. That’s what we do. We eat, sleep and curl.”