While we do love a good practice, the best way to test our developing skills will always be with a high-level game of curling. With this in mind, our coaches entered us into the South Central Super League to give us regular games. This tournament has the added advantage of us seeing a bit more of Canada, as each week of the round robin is held in a different club in Southern Manitoba.
Opening Night in Portage la Prairie
We started our campaign in a club called Portage la Prairie, with a game against Team Thomson. As we were still without our Brett, our super sub Steve Michaleski stepped up again to help us. We took a few ends to get going in this game, with the scores tied at 1-1 after 3 ends. Some sharp shooting from Garion at third was capitalised on by Steve at skip in the fourth end, netting us 5 points to lead 6-1 at the half.
The strong shot-making continued into the second stanza, with a force to one point followed by a triple with the hammer. We finished our first game up 9-2, and headed in early for pizza and our prize money. One of the cool things about curling in Canada, is that there is often cash prizes for winning games or placing high in the finals. The Super League is one of these cases, where each win nets your team $200, with $100 for a draw. With money in hand, a win under our belts, and pizza in our stomachs, we were pretty happy with our night’s work.
Straight Ice in Carman
With Brett fresh off the plane, we headed to Carman for our next two league games. In Carman we were greeted with some extremely straight ice, and set about trying to figure out how to curl on it. Unfortunately we were taught a few lessons in accuracy here, as there’s nothing that can be done about a stone thrown wide on non-curly ice as it won’t come back at all. Missing narrow was no good either, as we were taking so little ice to begin with.
It was a baptism by fire of sorts for Brett, slotting in at skip. We made some nice shots in our first game, but fell to Team Lukowich 7-3. In our second game we played against the undefeated Team North, and were promptly shut out by some accurate curling. The two losses were obviously not what we came to Carman looking for, but with a 1-2 record we were tied for 5th/6th place, just outside of the top four that would make playoffs.
You’re On Our Ice Now
One of the best things about the Super League is that although it travels around, you still get to play on your home ice at some point. This was the case for us in Week 3, as the Super League came to the Morris Curling Club. With our coach Lorne wanting to take a more off-ice role (filming our lovely slides) we once again called on Steve to join us.
Once on the ice, we quickly set about using our home advantage, forcing ones and scoring twos to be set up nicely at 4-2 with last rock in the 7th end. Unfortunately, after making 6-8 shots out of 8 per end for the first 6 frames, we forgot how to curl for an end, making only one lonely shot in the 7th, and giving up a huge steal of four points to be 6-4 down with only one round to play. After the opening exchange of shots in the last end, it quickly turned into a game of ‘hide a stone somewhere so we can have a chance at two’. It seemed like it would be a lost cause, with Team Bachalo peeling everything that was put in play, until Steve drew his first shot into the house. It came to rest in front of the only other stone in play (one of our opponent’s rocks) and cannoned into it when removal was attempted. Steve was cool as a cucumber, and popped one right in the middle of the rings for our second point, tying the game at 6-6.
With a 15-minute break between games (not even kidding a little) we were back out on the ice to play Team Hamblin. Not Lorne Hamblin that is, but his son David Hamblin, an extremely talented curler and 2002 Junior World Champion. This game got off to an even faster start than the first one, with a few lucky rolls in the second end leaving us lying five points, after Hamblin’s last shot clipped a guard on the way into the house. There was no time to celebrate though, as they immediately clawed back a triple in the next end. We were in trouble again soon, as many failed draws from both teams left Hamblin lying shot stone behind 4 or 5 guards, with a solitary Cargill CTC stone sitting in the edge of the circles. Thankfully, Steve saw the angle runback, liked the angle runback, and made the angle runback, pushing one of our guards straight into the shot stone for two points, and giving us the win 9-6. With two games left in the Round Robin, we were 2W-2L-1D and had just snuck inside the top four.
Return to Portage la Prairie
So we returned to Portage la Prairie, knowing we’d probably have to win at least one of our games in order to stay inside the top four. Luckily for us (not), our last two games were against teams ranked 1 and 2, Hyde and Neufeld. Our game started off slower than usual, with a few blanks in search of our multiple point end. Sitting at 1-1 after 5 ends, we finally got rid of the hammer, and stole a 2 and a 1 to be 4-1 up in the last end. We nearly blew the lead (but not quite), coming away with the win 4-3!
With the second seed taken care of, we took to the ice against Team Neufeld, who was sitting with a 6-0 record. Unfortunately in this game, we were shown the level of curling that you need to have a perfect record over a season, with Neufeld either scoring a multiple or blanking every end in which they had the hammer, and forcing us to score only the one point when we had the last rock. We shook hands after 7 ends, going down 6-2.
The Final Countdown
Just as we were hoping, 3W-3L-1D was just enough for us to sneak into the top four! This means that we qualify for playoffs this weekend in Mordon, playing who else but Team Neufeld again! Playoffs are a straight semis -> finals series, and are being held on the 25th of January. We’ll let you all know timings via social media, as well as if we’re able to stream the games.
Stay tuned to hear all about our exploits at the Manitoba Open (the world’s largest curling bonspiel) as we faced off against a field of 224 teams over 4 days!
Until next time, Mā Te Wā – Benji