Team BC’s Bob Ursel rink came up a millimetre short of a medal at the 2016 Everest Senior Men’s Curling Championship in Digby, N.S. on Saturday, while a relieved Team Ontario won gold at the week-long event.
With Kelowna’s Ursel as skip, Dave Stephenson third, Trail native Don Freschi throwing second rocks and Nelson’s Fred Thomson as lead, the fourth seeded Team BC faced number-1 seed Team Ontario in the semifinal. In a close match, that saw BC take a 5-3 lead after scoring two in the fifth and stealing one in the sixth, Ontario would count two in the seventh to tie it, then steal the game with a single in the eighth end for the 6-5 victory.
“We did great, just that last game,” said Freschi. “We were the only team to beat Ontario and then we had them beat again in the semifinal. We played hard, it’s just unfortunate we had a couple of picks on Bob’s last rocks.”
In the seventh end, BC had an open hit to lie two but the rock picked and floated by leaving Cochrane a draw for two. With the game tied in the final end and BC with hammer, Cochrane’s last rock was a great shot at a double take-out but the Ontario rock didn’t roll far enough and after a measurement it was determined the game-deciding point went to Ontario and with it, a berth in the final.
“They beat us by a fraction of a hair, a millimetre on a measurement,” said Freschi. “It just stuck there, didn’t move, it went across and then stopped. The curling gods were against us.”
Coming off the devastating loss, Freschi and the Ursel rink then fell to the 2014 seniors champion, Nova Scotia’s Al O’Leary rink, 7-5, in the bronze medal game to finish fourth in the tournament.
Team BC played 12 games over the week, the maximum number possible in the round-robin pool, championship-pool, and final-round format.
After beating Alberta’s Ed Lukowich rink 6-4 to start the Championship Pool round, BC rolled to a 5-3 victory over Brad Heidt’s Saskatchewan team Thursday then handed eventual champion Bryan Cochrane’s Ontario Team their only loss in the tournament, 8-2. However, BC fell to defending champion Randy Neufeld of La Salle, Manitoba in the next match, 6-0, on Friday.
The top four teams from the Championship Pool went on to the semifinals, where Ontario would beat BC, while Manitoba rolled to the final with an 11-5 drubbing of Nova Scotia, sending the host team to the bronze medal game against Team BC.
In the final, Team Ontario could do no wrong, taking a 5-1 sixth-end lead on its way to a conceded 6-3 victory in seven ends over Manitoba.
Following his victory, Ontario’s Cochrane was thrilled to be standing at the top of the podium after a long week of competition and a harrowing semifinal match against Ursel and Team BC.
“That was a tough week,” the Men’s champion said on the curling.ca website. “We had a really tough game against B.C. (Bob Ursel) this morning (in the semifinal). This was hard – that was very good curling out there this week. We hung in there and the guys played great.”
In the bronze medal game, Ursel’s rink was poised for a victory, leading 4-3 over O’Leary heading into the sixth end when the Nova Scotia skip scored two, and then stole two in the seventh on the way to a 7-5 win.
While a medal would have been nice for Team BC, after losing their shot at gold to Ontario, Freschi and the rest of the team took the upcoming game in stride and enjoyed the experience playing against Digby’s hometown team.
“We talked to Nova Scotia, the home crowd, so we just said ‘Hey, we’re just going to throw them up and down and see what happens,’” said Freschi. “We’re not too stressed about it. It’s just after losing that one we shouldn’t have, it was tough.”
In Women’s play, Colleen Jones’ Nova Scotia foursome took the gold with a 5-2 victory over Team Saskatchewan on Saturday. Jones, a six-time Canadian (1982, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004) and two-time (2001, 2004) world champion, will try to become just the second curler to skip her team to victory at the Scotties, Worlds and Canadian Seniors. Cathy King from Alberta won the bronze with a 7-3 win over Ontario, and is the only curler to achieve that feat.
It was the first year that Kootenay curlers Freschi and Thomson curled with the Okanagan’s Ursel and Stephenson, and, according to Freschi, it certainly won’t be the last.
“We had a solid team, we had a blast this year, and we’re already talking about it. We’re going to stick together and win that damn thing next year.”
The Cochrane and Jones rinks will now compete as Team Canada at the 2017 World Senior Curling Championship in Lethbridge, Alta. Apr. 22-29, 2017.