The ninth President’s Cup in 21 years was worth the wait for the King and his men at the St. Albert Curling Club.
The seven-man deep lineup of grandfathers, provincial-calibre curlers and former world champions emerged from the Thursday league to go 4-1 in the double-knockout playoffs to win the men’s crown.
“We didn’t make the playoffs last year because the old pension guys didn’t win enough games when the young guys were away,” said Craig King, who threw lead rocks and held the broom for his son Jamie (last rock shooter), Blake MacDonald (shot third rocks) and Brian Pfeifer in Tuesday’s final. “The difference this year was we had one game when Jamie and Blake were in provincials and the old guys played against Sweeney, another real good team, and somehow we managed to squeak that one out. When we got Jamie back we won a couple games after that and it got us into playoffs and once you get into the playoffs you’ve got a chance.”
Ralph Killips, Elson Keown and Scott Pfeifer are also part of the tour de force rink that will represent St. Albert at the 50th annual Edmonton and area Tournament of Champions, April 8 to 17 at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
Two years ago at their sixth-straight Tournament of Champions the Kings, Killips, Keown and Brian Pfeifer celebrated their second cities title in team history. They were also city finalists in 2009.
“We’re happy to get back to cities this year,” King said. “The last time we were there when we won we got an eight-ender that year (in league play) and we had an eight-ender this year so it’s a good omen. We just have to figure out who is going to be around to play.”
Tuesday in the playoff doubleheader Darcy Hafso edged King 4-3 in the A-B game, but the tables were turned in the sudden-death match as King emerged unscathed 8-1 in four ends.
The turnaround marked the third final in four years King had to win the tiebreaker to advance to cities.
“We had a lot of faith in our abilities that we could do it,” King said. “We’ve got a lot of experience between Jamie and Blake. They’ve played lots of big games so they’ve come back lots of times when they’ve had to. Brian and I just kind of hang on and try and not get in their way too much.”
In the first game the B-side winners – Hafso, third Al Andersen, second Rod Hafso and lead Doug Riopelle – played an aggressive style with multiple rocks in play in every end but never scored more than one point.
Hafso made it 2-1 in four, stole singles in five and six before King replied with one in seven and then stole one in the eighth and last end.
“We were on the wrong side of the inch in the first game. They played really well. They’re a good team,” King said. “There were lots of rocks around and they were getting the hits and rolls. A couple of times they made some really nice doubles.
“There was also one rock in the (fifth) end where it looked like it was probably out but (Pfeifer) accidently kicked it off before we had a chance to measure so that gave them a little bit of an extra start on us.”
In the rematch King stole one in the first end and four in two for a commanding lead. In three Hafso duplicated a great shot by Jamie to score one. The handshakes started after King’s three-ender in four.
“(Hafso) missed that one draw and we stole the four and that was the difference in the whole game. He just came up a little light and wrecked on the guard so after that it’s kind of uphill for them and downhill for us,” King said.
Hafso deserved a better fate in the finale.
“In both games we played extremely well. There wasn’t an end where we were outplayed badly at all. Even in the second game when we gave them four, it was just one bad shot by me in the end,” he said.
The teams also hooked up in the March 11 playoff opener.
“That was another real good game. We got up on them early and gave them the game,” Hafso said.
After the loss Hafso beat the Klatchuk foursome, Ron Manson, 2012 champion Dale Briske and Alan Sweeney in the B final for another shot at King.
“We felt good as a team all along. When we’ve played as a full foursome we’ve always played well. We believed as a team we could win every game we played all year long so we were never out of it (in the playoffs). We pulled together to win the last five games to get to this final game. It was a lot of fun,” Hafso said.
King also had a blast curling on a team that takes great delight in calling itself Hootie and the Old Fish.
“The four old guys are all 65-plus (Keown skipped a team at the masters provincials this year), so we know every year is a real blessing. We’re also lucky that the young guys (Jamie, MacDonald and Scott Pfeifer curled together at the Boston Pizza Cup provincials in February) don’t mind playing with us old guys,” he said. “The older fellows also know this isn’t the Brier but we still like to get out and play and compete and socialize with the members of the club so it’s always fun.”
HOG LINES: Tuesday in the Manager’s Cup final Neil McKay defeated Gary Hoekstra.
Last weekend at the Dominion Curling Club northern playdowns in Sherwood Park the Briske rink of third Les Ferguson, second Rick Dallyn and lead Doug de Bruijn lost the A final 4-2 to Glen Hansen of Hinton and the B final 6-5 to Dan Sherrard of the Crestwood in the double knockout format.