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B.C. duo sticks to win

Armstrong team of John Campbell and Tim Smith scored three points in the last end in Wednesday's final to win the Canadian Open Stick Curling Championship in St. Albert

By: Jeff Hansen

  |  Posted: Saturday, Apr 05, 2014 06:00 am

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  • STICK SHOOTER - John Campbell delivers a rock in the 10th annual Canadian Open Stick Curling Championship final Wednesday at the St. Albert Curling Club. In the sixth and last end, Campbell and teammate Tim Smith were down two points against Ryan Meyer and Dennis Fitzgerald of Morinville, when Campbell drew to the house to count three to give the  Armstrong Curling Club duo a hard-fought 4-3 victory.
    STICK SHOOTER - John Campbell delivers a rock in the 10th annual Canadian Open Stick Curling Championship final Wednesday at the St. Albert Curling Club. In the sixth and last end, Campbell and teammate Tim Smith were down two points against Ryan Meyer and Dennis Fitzgerald of Morinville, when Campbell drew to the house to count three to give the Armstrong Curling Club duo a hard-fought 4-3 victory.
    APRIL BARTLETT/St. Albert Gazette
  • CANADIAN CHAMPIONS - John Campbell (left) and Tim Smith of the Armstrong Curling Club are the 2014 Canadian Open stick curling national champions. In Wednesday's final at the St. Albert Curling Club the Campbell/Smith duo scored three with the hammer in the sixth and last end to defeat the Morinville tandem of Ryan Meyer and Dennis Fitzgerald 4-3. It's the second national championship in four years and the third time the perennial B.C. champions reached the final in five trips to the Canadian Open.
    CANADIAN CHAMPIONS - John Campbell (left) and Tim Smith of the Armstrong Curling Club are the 2014 Canadian Open stick curling national champions. In Wednesday's final at the St. Albert Curling Club the Campbell/Smith duo scored three with the hammer in the sixth and last end to defeat the Morinville tandem of Ryan Meyer and Dennis Fitzgerald 4-3. It's the second national championship in four years and the third time the perennial B.C. champions reached the final in five trips to the Canadian Open.
  • ROCK THROWER - Dennis Fitzgerald of Morinville releases a rock in Wednesday's final at the 10th annual Canadian Open Stick Curling Championship at the St. Albert Curling Club. Fitzgerald and partner Ryan Meyer lost 4-3 to John Campbell and Tim Smith of the Armstrong Curling Club after leading 3-1 going into the sixth and last end.
    ROCK THROWER - Dennis Fitzgerald of Morinville releases a rock in Wednesday's final at the 10th annual Canadian Open Stick Curling Championship at the St. Albert Curling Club. Fitzgerald and partner Ryan Meyer lost 4-3 to John Campbell and Tim Smith of the Armstrong Curling Club after leading 3-1 going into the sixth and last end.

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The spotlight shone on a pair of Armstrong stick curlers for the second time in four years on the national stage.

Wednesday at the St. Albert Curling Club the one-two punch of John Campbell and Tim Smith combined to win their second Canadian Open two-person stick championship since 2011 in their third trip to the final in five appearances together at nationals.

The four-time British Columbia champions counted three in the sixth and last end on the last shot of the game to edge out the Morinville duo of Ryan Meyer and Dennis Fitzgerald 4-3.

“Stick curling is not like the Brier but for us it’s the Brier,” Smith declared after posing for the team picture with the Sure-Shot Stick Trophy. “I’m really, really proud to take it home to the Armstrong Curling Club and Armstrong.”

The only two-time champions in the 10-year history of the Canadian Open are big wheels in stick curling back home.

“You have no idea what’s going to happen there when we get back,” Campbell said with a mischievous grin. “We have a very close knit club and we’ve got 100 stick curlers that feel like this trophy is theirs too and we try to make them feel that way and they just love it.”

The winning tandem agreed this year’s championship means more to them than the 2011 victory in Maple Ridge, B.C.

“Oh yeah, because I’m getting a little long in the tooth and there might not be any more so this is great,” said Smith, 74.

Campbell, 66, agreed. “The thing is you never know if you’re ever going to be back again,” he said. “This is a tough bonspiel (48-team, three-day competition) to win. There are a lot of good stick curlers.”

And they did it in dramatic fashion on Campbell’s sixth and last delivery in the final – a draw to tap back two of his shot rocks to nudge a Morinville rock deeper into the house to complete the comeback.

“The only thing that was going through my mind was hit the broom to move that rock and it worked,” Campbell said. “One thing we had to worry about was when (Meyer) threw his last rock and it really bent at the end so we had to be careful of that.”

Meyer flashed his last shot to set the stage for Campbell’s game winner.

“They had two that were frozen to one of ours in the back and all I wanted to do was hit it on the nose and hope they couldn’t draw for three and I just under threw it and it just over curled,” said Meyer, 67.

The Armstrong twosome never led once in the final but Smith was confident they would pull it off at the end.

“We’ve been in a lot of games like this and you just don’t give up. You kind of work at it.”

Too close to call

The Morinville team struck first in the opening end and in three stole one to make it 2-0.

A double takeout by Campbell in four cut Morinville’s lead in half.

As the fifth end wound down Smith and Fitzgerald traded clutch shots as Morinville regained its two-point advantage.

“It was a defensive battle,” said Fitzgerald, 68. “They’re a great team and any time that we were able to score it was well earned.

“We gradually pulled ahead and it was some unbelievable shots by them in the last end that sort of turned the tide and let them come back.”

In the decisive sixth end, and a long line of noses pressed against the viewing window in the crowded Friendly Giant Lounge to watch the thriller unfold, both teams went toe-to-toe to declare the Canadian champion. A couple of timeouts throughout the end brought the curlers to centre ice to discuss team strategy.

“We talked about throwing a couple of guards and if they don't peel them off properly then we can come around and that’s how it all got started actually,” said Campbell, who eventually froze two rocks in front of a Morinville stone. “It was lucky we got them in there.”

After Meyer was unlucky with his last attempt, Campbell went for the win and Smith knew the shot was pure gold as soon as it left his partner’s stick

“It looked good to me. It was right on.”

It was a bittersweet loss for Meyer and Fitzgerald in their first stick curling competition after honing their skills in the Tuesday morning stick league in Morinville.

“I picked a pretty good guy for a partner for this event. We gelled pretty good,” Meyer said. “Every game was very, very interesting and very close, including the last one. I thought we would be in every game and we weren’t going to get blown out and that's the way it turned out. We actually lost two games in an extra end.

“I just enjoyed it immensely. It’s good curling.”

Long trek to final

The final was the sixth one-hour game for the Morinville curlers Wednesday, starting with three games in the C event to capture the fifth qualifier berth in the eight-team championship event.

“It was quite a day for us. We just took it one game at a time and we made it through to the final so we’re very pleased with how we did,” said Fitzgerald of the team’s 8-3 record. “There were two games where we didn't have to throw our last rock and every other game was a last rock game.”

Wednesday’s march to the final for Campbell and Smith started at 8 a.m. in the B event and after losing one of the two B finals their journey continued into the C event before winning the eight and last qualifier berth. They finished 9-2 overall.

“John always said we just do one at a time and that's what we exactly did. We didn't worry about the next one,” Smith said.

The 2012 finalists in Regina also faced an uphill battle in Maple Ridge for the national crown.

“We had to win six straight out of the C event when we won it the first time and I think three of them were in extra ends so it was not any easier than this one. We didn't have extra ends here but everything was down to the last shot. It was extremely difficult, especially this last game,” Campbell said.


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