Rexall Place – The best of the best are curling up a storm at the Roar of the Rings.
“This is the toughest competition you will ever play in. With the calibre of teams, and what’s on the line, it’s as good as it gets. Everyone is going to play strong. You have to play your best and get the breaks too in order to win this thing,” said Marc Kennedy, a three-time Brier first team all-star second with the Kevin Martin rink.
The eight-team men’s draw will determine the Canadian entry at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
“It would be a dream come true for all of us,” said Kennedy, a Paul Kane High School alumnus who grew up rocking the ice at the St. Albert Curling Club. “We’ve put in a lot of effort and a lot of time to get to this stage. Our families have put in a lot of time too. They’ve had to put up with us for the last few years for this goal.
“But at the end of the day when you’re at the event you really can’t think of the results. You really have to focus on the process so that’s what we’re trying to do right now because we’re a long shot away from even getting into the playoffs.”
The two-time reigning Brier championship team of Martin (2002 Olympic silver medallist), third John Morris and the powerful front-end tandem of Kennedy and Ben Hebert split their opening two games — Sunday’s 7-5 win over Jason Gunnlaugson of Manitoba and Monday’s surprising 8-5 loss to Pat Simmons of Saskatchewan.
“We didn’t play very well today,” said a frustrated Kennedy, who shot 83 per cent in the loss after Monday’s 85-per-cent effort against Gunnlaugson.
It was 2-2 after four when Simmons scored one with the hammer in five and stole singles in six and seven. A three ender by Martin in eight knotted the score, but Simmons rebounded with one in nine and stole two in 10 when Martin misfired both of his shots.
“We were down most of the game but we battled hard. We came back and gave ourselves a chance to win, just couldn’t finish it off there with the last couple of shots,” said Kennedy, a noted southpaw shooter who didn’t look too happy over some of the deliveries he made. “It’s really disappointing. We’re not getting what we want out of every shot. The ice is good but it’s a little tricky and we’re not getting our draw weight really good. We’re struggling a bit where to put the broom and it’s costing us.”
Kennedy, 27, said the pressure to perform wasn’t the issue in the team’s somewhat slow start.
“A big event is a big event, right? You prepare the same and you just hope it all comes together at the right time,” said the 2007/08 men’s MVP on the World Curling Tour. “Right now we’re fighting it a bit but we just have to be patient and hopefully it will come around for us.”
At the 2005 Olympic trials Kennedy played on a rink skipped by Morris and led all seconds in shooting percentage with a 90-per-cent average in the 10-team round robin. Morris finished third at 6-3 and in the semifinal lost 8-6 to Jeff Stoughton of Manitoba.
The Saville Sports Centre foursome, silver medallists at the 2009 worlds, was the first team to qualify directly into the Roar of the Rings by winning the 2007 Players’ Championship and both the 2008 Brier and worlds.
“We’ve been waiting awhile to get this going so we were pretty excited. We had a really good couple of weeks of training and practice and preparation, so we felt good knowing that we did everything that we could coming into this event,” said Kennedy, co-owner of an M&M Meat Shop in north Edmonton.
“Right from day one we pushed ourselves pretty hard, especially with the fitness. We wanted to be in as good as shape as possible coming into a long event that is fairly stressful so we were in the gym four or five times a week. We’re also on a nutrition plan, so we’re kind of pushing the envelope more than curlers have in the past and you see a lot of teams following that trend.”
On tap today for Martin and company is the renewal of the longstanding rivalry with the Ferbey Four. Game time is 1 p.m.
The top team in the round robin advances into Sunday’s final at 1 p.m. The second and third place rinks clash in Saturday’s semifinal at 1 p.m. Visit
www.seasonofchampions.ca/rotr/for the schedules and results.