Kennedy aims for sixth Brier
Southpaw second for Kevin Martin's rink slides into provincials next week in Lacombe
Saturday, Feb 01, 2014 06:00 am
With the Roar of the Rings in the rearview mirror, Marc Kennedy is looking ahead to the Boston Pizza Cup and a return trip to the Brier.
“There is some extra motivation to finish this year off really strong. We’re going to give it a real go at provincials and see if we can win another one,” said the southpaw second from St. Albert with the Kevin Martin rink.
Provincials in Lacombe start Wednesday, the same day as Kennedy’s 32nd birthday.
“It will be the first big event for us since probably the trials,” Kennedy said of the Olympic qualifier in early December at Winnipeg. “We’re pretty refreshed after the trials. We all had a nice month-long break. I don’t think any one of us were on the ice for quite a while (except for the all-star skins game Jan. 11 to 14 in Banff). We’ve got back on the ice last week and we’ve been throwing just about every day. Everyone is pretty excited.”
The winner advances to the Brier in March at Kamloops.
“It would mean a lot to get back there again. I think there is some unfinished business for us. We did not play well last year at the Brier (at Rexall Place) and to not make the playoffs was quite disappointing,” Kennedy said of the fifth-place 7-4 showing after a 1-4 start for Martin, with John Morris at third and Ben Hebert at lead.
Morris would later part ways with the 2010 Olympic gold medallists after seven years of success, including two Brier championships and gold at worlds in 2008, so Dave Nedohin was recruited to fill the void.
With the last-rock shooter for the Ferbey Four in the lineup, Martin was 37-10 in seven World Curling Tour events leading up to the trials, where the Saville Community Sports Centre affiliate finished 6-2 as the semifinalist.
“The trials are a real up-and-down experience. You go through every emotion you can imagine,” Kennedy said. “Getting as close as we did and losing can be quite disappointing so you need that time to, I guess, refresh and just come to terms with everything and realize that the four years you’ve been working at (for an Olympic berth) is done and it’s time to move on.”
Martin rattled off five straight wins in the round robin before losing to Brad Jacobs of Northern Ontario 5-4 as the 2013 Brier champion counted two in 10 with the hammer.
Martin’s last game before the playoffs was the 7-6 win against Morris, with Jim Cotter throwing last rocks for the Vernon/Kamloops rink, to finish 6-1 for second place.
Morris placed third at 4-3 and in the semifinal beat Martin 7-5, with key deuces in six to tie at three, eight to lead 5-4 and 10 for the win.
In the final Jacobs beat Morris 7-4 to represent Canada at the Sochi Winter Games.
“It was pretty exciting that we put ourselves in a chance to win, which I wasn’t sure that we were even going to get there, so to get that close and lose is tough but Brad Jacobs’ team played great and Johnny Mo’s team played great in the semis,” said Kennedy, who curled a game-high 94 per cent in the semifinal.
“If you’re going to get that close to losing you open yourself up for big disappointment and unfortunately we were disappointed but all in all it was a great week. That’s the best I’ve seen Kevin play in a long time. We really came together as a team and played great, it was just one or two shots and that was it.”
Word surfaced after the trials that Martin might step away from the competitive curling grind.
“Kevin keeps things pretty close to the chest. He hasn’t made a full decision yet and that’s definitely lingering in the background,” said Kennedy.
The St. Albert Curling Club’s wall of fame inductee in 2011 believes the uncertainty surrounding Martin’s future will not be a distraction as the rink enters the second half of the WCT season, culminating with the Players’ Championship in April at Summerside, P.E.I.
“It can be a real positive thing, knowing that potentially it’s our last playdown run together as a team and that this might be our last four, five events. It’s a little extra motivation to try and go out on a really high note, play our best, really support each other, stay positive and if it is the end for the team that it goes out on the highest note possible,” Kennedy said of the No. 2 rink on the WCT’s money list at $59,400 and No. 7 in the WCT’s Order of Merit rankings.
So, would Kennedy jump at the chance to skip his own rink if Martin was to move on?
“I’ve always been attracted to the second and third positions. I can see myself one day maybe moving up to play third,” said the Brier first team all-star second in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011 and second-team all-star selection in 2013. “But I love sweeping too much. I love being on this end where you get to talk with your teammates and you’re not all by yourself. It takes a pretty special person with a unique personality these days to skip at a top level.”
At provincials Martin, the No. 1 seed in the 12-team draw, will play Matt Blandford (No. 8) or Charley Thomas (No. 9) in the A quarter-finals. Kevin Koe (No. 2), the 2010 Brier and world champion and 2012 Brier finalist, Jamie King (No. 3) and young gun Brendan Bottcher (No. 4) also have first-round byes.
Kennedy, the 2013 Bo Davidiuk Award winner at provincials for sweeping prowess, team support and sportsmanship, knows the Koe foursome will be chomping at the bit to erase last year’s memory of losing twice to Martin at provincials in Leduc, including a riveting 5-4 final decided on Martin’s last shot in the extra end, as well as a 6-5 loss at the trials.
But the Paul Kane High School alumnus is also leery about King’s high-profile St. Albert-based team of Blake MacDonald, Scott Pfeifer and Jeff Erickson. In their inaugural season together King and his men came within a whisker of knocking off Martin in the A semifinals at the 2012 provincials, but lost in an extra end with the hammer.
“They’re tough. I’ve heard they’re practicing more this year,” said Kennedy, who was intrigued by the King team’s 45-minute rock-throwing practices at the St. Albert Curling Club, followed by post-training sessions of drinking red wine in MacDonald’s hot tub.
“Sounds like they’ve got a good thing going. I’ve got to try that.”