King's men march to provincials
St. Albert Curling Club rink is experienced and dangerous
Saturday, Jan 25, 2014 06:00 am
The Jamie King rink is bringing its A game to the Boston Pizza Cup provincial men’s championship.
The St. Albert Curling Club foursome of King (throws lead rocks and calls the game), second Jeff Erickson, third Scott Pfeifer and last-shot gunner Blake MacDonald are in better shape to win the Brier qualifier after last year’s 3-3 provincial showing.
“We’re more prepared than we’ve ever been,” King said. “Compared to last year, we’ve done more practicing since our last (World Curling Tour) bonspiel at the end of November, which was the same thing as last year. This year we kind of made more of a conscious effort to practice more. We’ve been throwing rocks on a fairly regular basis at the St. Albert Curling Club, where the boys have been playing on a fairly regular basis sparring on the (Hootie and the Old Fish) Thursday night league team.”
Provincials start Feb. 5 in Lacombe as King’s men strive to become the first St. Albert team to represent Alberta at the Brier since Hec Gervais in 1974 and Tom Reed in 1975.
“We’re looking forward to it,” King said of the team’s second crack at provincials together. “We’ve known each other far too long so we were pretty comfortable going into last year and this year we kind of know each other’s tendencies a little better.”
King and Rob Schlender bypassed the 2014 provincial playdowns with Alberta Tour qualifying berths.
The No. 3 seeds in last year’s 12-team draw as one of two Alberta Tour qualifiers are 14-9 in four spiels this season after losing the Spruce Grove Cashspiel 5-4 in an extra end to Brendan Bottcher of Edmonton on Nov. 24.
“In comparison to last year our record isn't probably as good,” King said. “Consistently, we’ve probably played the same in every spiel. We haven’t really gone up or down much.”
In previous spiels the King quartet reached the quarter-finals at the Shoot-Out at the Saville Centre after winning it last year, finished 3-3 at the Curling Classic in Vernon after reaching the final last year and made the semifinals at Medicine Hat.
“At Spruce Grove we actually hadn’t played in a few weeks and we didn’t start off that well but by the end we were playing OK,” King said. “We didn’t have the hammer in the extra end, it was straight ice, and Blake made a great shot. He literally came about half an inch short on his draw on a freeze and if he had gone that extra inch further I don’t think Brendan Bottcher had a shot and we would’ve won the game. It just kind of fudged coming into the house. It was a great game.
“In the Saville spiel right at the start of the year we played quite well going through the first part and then in the playoffs we lost (7-3) to John Shuster, who just represented the U.S. in the Continental Cup. He played fantastic and they beat us but we played pretty good in that one.
“In Medicine Hat we played OK and made it to the semis. We were playing pretty good in the playoffs but ran into a hot team from Saskatchewan in Randy Bryden (and lost 7-6).
“In Vernon we just kind of struggled in the last two ends of the C qualifier (and lost 7-6 in eight ends to Jeff Richard of Kelowna after leading 6-3 after six). We should’ve won that game easily.”
Last year King’s star-studded lineup scared the daylights out of the highly-touted Kevin Martin and Kevin Koe rinks at provincials in Leduc, but lost to Martin in an extra end with the hammer in the A semifinals and made Koe draw for the winning point in the 10th end in the C finals, which featured a Hail Mary triple-takeout by Koe with his first shot in 10.
“It just kind of reaffirmed to us that if we’re playing as good as we can with the talent we have on this team, there is no reason why we can’t beat anybody out there,” King said. “There are teams like Martin and Koe that if they’re playing as good as they can and if they’re on their game they’re going to be extremely tough to beat but with guys like Jeff, he’s won a few provincial titles in junior, and with Scott (one of the inaugural six inductees into the St. Albert Curling Club’s wall of fame in 2011) and Blake, their records speak for themselves as world (and Brier) champs. They've got a tremendous amount of talent.”
King is no slouch either as the 2003 and 2005 provincial finalist and alternate for Koe’s 2010 Brier and world championship team with MacDonald on board.
But his biggest claim to fame is spearheading the Hootie and the Old Fish to an unprecedented nine President’s Cups in 21 years as the St. Albert Curling Club playoff champions.
Last year marked the seventh Edmonton and area Tournament of Champions title for King, his dad, Craig, Brian Pfeifer and Ralph Killips. They were joined by long-time alternate Elson Keown, as well as MacDonald, the younger Pfeifer and Erickson throughout league play, club playoffs and the Tournament of Champions when the team’s elder statesmen were on vacation.
“The young guys have been playing the last couple of weeks because the old guys are on holidays down south,” said King, the team’s Hootie. “We’re having fun. As per the norm, it’s more about throwing a few rocks and getting together and having some beers and pickled eggs after the game and socializing.”
The Old Fish have a big game Thursday at 8:30 p.m. against the Hoekstra firefighters.
“I think it’s for first place so it should be good,” King said.