Sports

Champs put their stamp on B.C. mixed curling final

Perhaps being dressed in blue was the appropriate colour for Wes Craig’s valley foursome in the B.C. mixed curling championships.

They left Steve Kopf and his Royal City team feeling blue with a five-ender that literally came out of the blue Sunday afternoon at the Duncan Curling Club, propelling the hometown favourites to a 10-6 victory over their previously-undefeated opponents in the championship game of the eight-team event.

The teams were tied 5-5 after seven ends, with each scoring a three and a couple of singles along the way. One of those last-rock thrillers seemed to be in the works, but then something remarkable happened.

Craig knocked two Kopf stones out of the house with a brilliant final shot in the eighth end and was left lying five that basically decided the issue. The teams played the ninth and Kopf scored one, but then shook hands.

No one was prepared for a tense game taking a sudden 180 degree turn, not even the curlers.

But Wes Craig, third Sarah Wark, second Miles Craig and lead Michelle Allen overcame two previous losses to Kopf in one fell swoop during the game that mattered most.

In all of his years of curling, the manner in which he won isn’t something Wes Craig has seen often, never mind experienced firsthand.

“That’s a rarity,’’ he said. “It was a great win. We hung in there after we were down two in five. I think we just knew to hang in there. We knew we could beat them. We just let the other two games slip away. This time, we hung on and won.’’

“We expected it to go down to the last rock,’’ said Allen. “The first game was extra end, the second game we played them was down to the last rock so we were definitely expecting more of the same. All of a sudden, five yellows just kind of popped up out of the blue. I’m happy. We’ll take it, but it wasn’t expected.’’

“After the first four stones, we were looking like we could be in a little bit of trouble,’’ said Wark of the fateful eighth. “They had two guards and we were way back in the house. But it just seemed to come together. We got that little nice hit and roll that kind of set us up. We got a little lucky in that end, too.’’

With Roselyn Craig still involved as a coach while replaced on the ice by Allen, it was a great triumph within the immediate and extended family.

“It’s a thrill to win in Duncan where Miles learned to curl and so did Roz,’’ said Wes. “It’s a great place to win it. That’s all I can say.’’

“Being with my dad’s nice,’’ said Miles, who faced him as rival skips in the Duncan mixed bonspiel A event final two weeks prior. “We lost the men’s final like a month ago so if I’d lost two B.C. finals in the same year, it would have been tough.’’

The connection the four curlers made was remarkable.

“We all know each other really well,’’ said Miles. “We’ve played lots together so it’s pretty easy to gel even if we don’t practice that much throughout the year together.’’

The two outsiders fit right in with the Craigs on and off the ice.

“I think we just really learned how to support each other as teammates,’’ said Allen. “We all know each other but we don’t curl together on a regular basis. Once we had a couple of games under our belts, we just felt comfortable out there. We were just there to pick up the other if we’re having a tough game so I think we just gelled at the right time.

“It’s nice to do it with such a great family, the Craigs,’’ said Wark. “The parents,  I’ve curled with them for a long time now. We’ve been in two finals before this and we came second both times so it’s nice to finish it off.’’

Wark was the ultimate player at third. She was right on the mark in the final and during a 9-1 victory over eventual third-place finisher Tom Buchy of Kimberley in the previous Page playoff game.

“That’s my favourite kind of shot is when they really need to be made — the little extra pressure,’’ said Wark.

“They were a fantastic team,’’ she said of Kopf, third Brandi Tinkler, second Chayse Martin and lead Heather Beatty. “It was definitely these two teams I think that really should have been there. They make a ton of shots and they don’t miss much so the other games when they were really tight we couldn’t get opportunities out of them.’’

The champs will represent B.C. in the mixed nationals in North Bay, Ont. in November.

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