St. Albert skip Jamie King took the bullet for his team's loss in Sunday's C-event final at the northern Alberta playdowns at Wetaskiwin.
"It was definitely my worst game of the weekend, which is disappointing," King said. "Anytime you're in position to qualify for provincials you've got to play your best game."
With a trip to provincials at stake, King's cash spiel rink of third Glenn Kennedy, second Dustin Eckstrand and lead Todd Brick of the Saville Sports Centre dropped a 6-3 decision to James Pahl of Sherwood Park.
"I had some opportunities to get us points so it was disappointing, especially when you get that far. You work all year to try and get to provincials and with [reigning Brier champion and Team Canada skip] Kevin Martin not around this year you never know what might happen," said King, a provincial finalist in 2003 and 2005 who was eliminated in the C semifinals at the 2009 Alberta championship curling with Blayne Iskiw, Kennedy and Brick.
After the first end was blanked, Pahl's open draw for two opened the scoring in the second. King settled for a draw for one in three. After a steal of one in four by King, Pahl counted two in five with a nose hit to regain control of the match.
"They put one at the back of the button and I had a chance to make a freeze but I was a little wide and a little heavy. It flopped off just a bit and James makes a great shot for two," King said. "After that we're battling and on ice that is straight like it was, it's tough to come back on it."
Curling on ice that refused to bend the rocks caused an uproar among some of the competitors.
"It was very difficult. You couldn't get around anything and it was really fast," said King, who noted the rocks were not very sharp and would slide straighter than normal. "I'm not making no excuses because everybody played on the same ice but it was tough for us. We play a finesse game and it was more conducive to a hit game.
"You're trying to get by so tight to everything and if you were a little bit off it just exaggerated everything."
A single by King in six was followed by Pahl blanking seven and eight. In the ninth Pahl scored his third deuce of the final.
"I ticked on a guard that I shouldn't have ticked on and it ended up giving him [an open draw] for two," King said. "In 10 we actually had it set up for three but we slipped a little far with Glen's last one and James made a great double and that was pretty much the game."
In the 16-team bracket King finished 5-3 overall.
"We had a good run through A [beat Kevin Koe 7-6 in an extra end] and then we lost a game we probably shouldn't have lost in the A semis [5-4 to Ben Wilkinson of Whitecourt, the eventual A qualifier]," said King, who will join Koe's rink as their fifth man for next month's provincials at Olds, the same position he held with the Team Canada contenders at the Roar of the Rings. "Overall we played pretty good and the guys battled hard. We still had a lot of fun but it was disappointing coming out flat like that [in the C final] but c'est la vie. It happens."
Drive for Five
King, 36, will now focus his energies on the Drive for Five by his club team. Known as Hootie and the Old Fish, the experienced and decorated line-up of third Craig King, second Ralph Killips, lead Brian Pfeifer and fifth man Elson Keown have captured the last four club crowns, highlighted by their 2006 Tournament of Champions victory and a second place finish in 2009, an extra end loss to Jamie Fletcher of the Saville Sports Centre in the final. It marked their sixth trip to the city playoff tournament as the club champions during their 17 years of curling together.
King's veteran crew is in a dogfight with Ben Bellamy's junior rink, the zone 5 reps for the next month's Alberta Winter Games, for first place in the Thursday night men's league.
"Looking back at the club history I don't know if anybody has ever won five in a row. Hec [Gervais] and Dan Holowaychuk and Gerry Paine had some great teams back in the day but I don't think any of them had done it," King said. "Definitely we would like to accomplish that. We're not getting any younger and it's getting tougher every year, especially with guys like the Bellamy boys coming up."
Another major event for the Old Fishes is the Dominion northern club playdowns at the end of March at Sherwood Park. The St. Albert Curling Club is sending its 2009 men's and women's champions to northerns in pursuit of three spots at provincials on the road to nationals.
"The guys are pretty excited. As a team, other than club playdowns and the club championships, we've never played in anything that's sort of like a playdown so for us to have that opportunity is pretty special," King said. "I don't know if any of the four seniors on my team have ever been to a provincials at any level so from that standpoint to try and win a northerns spot and get those guys to provincials would be awesome. Once you're there, you never know; you could be playing for a national championship, which would be amazing, especially representing St. Albert."
Joining the Old Fishes at the Dominion playdowns at Sherwood Park is the Christina Monk rink, the three-time defending women's club champions and 2009 city finalists. With Monk on maternity leave, the team juggled its line-up and hasn't missed a beat. Kathy Piper was promoted to skip from lead. Laurie Schreiner moved up to third and Nicole Bellamy took her place at second. Earning fulltime status at lead after sparing last season is Shirley Haggith. Undefeated in the Wednesday night ladies league, they are the team to beat next weekend at St. Albert ladies bonspiel.
HOG LINES: With three games left until the playoffs, the three-time reigning mixed club champions skipped by Doug McLennan are 15-0 in their Thursday night league. The McLennan foursome includes third Alison Howes, second Colin Jenkyns, lead Ashley Ferguson and spare Lauren Jenkyns.
In the men's senior (50-plus) playdowns, McLennan's rink of third Wilf Gunderson, second Don Johnston and lead John McKenzie qualified for the 15-team northerns, starting Friday at the Saville Sports Centre. At zones recently they qualified for northerns with a 3-2 record. Last year at zones they finished 2-3 in the 17-team competition and failed to advance.