Kevin Koe delivers a rock as Nolan Thiessen, left, and Carter Rycroft sweep during the Page Playoff 3-4 game during Alberta men’s championship in Leduc on Feb. 9
Photograph by: Larry Wong, Edmonton Journal
LEDUC - Brock Virtue supposedly left Alberta to curl in Saskatchewan this season because it’s easier to qualify for the Tim Hortons Brier out of that province.
But Kevin Koe’s third, Pat Simmons, who has won in both Saskatchewan and Alberta, said it doesn’t matter where you play. The key is playing well.
“Basically, my experience with provincials is if you’re not playing your best, you’re not going to win,” he said. “You can kind of muck through a little bit, but when it comes to playoff time, or certainly when you get down to your last life, if that does happen, if you’re not playing your best, you’re not going to win.
“We proved that (Friday),” he continued. “We were just a little off and you get beat. Provincials is tough.”
Koe’s defending Alberta championship team, which includes Carter Rycroft and Nolan Thiessen on the front end, was upset 10-7 by Airdrie’s Aaron Sluchinski in the B Event final of the Boston Pizza Cup Friday afternoon at the Leduc Recreation Centre.
Down to his last life in the triple-knockout competition, Koe has since won three games in a row to advance to Sunday’s Alberta men’s semifinal at 9:30 a.m. against Sluchinski.
“We’re looking forward to it. It’s kind of a different route for us, obviously, than it was last year, but we’re looking forward to the game (Sunday) morning and go from there,” Simmons said after Saturday’s 11-3 victory over Calgary’s Charley Thomas in the Page Playoff 3-4 game.
“Tonight was really good, so there’ll be some good thoughts going to bed.”
Kevin Martin, an 11-time provincial champ, won the Page 1-2 game 7-3 over Sluchinski to advance directly to Sunday’s 2 p.m. final.
Martin is in the ideal position because he has hammer in the first end, choice of rocks, and the history of the A Event winner always going unbeaten in the provincial championship since the current format was installed in 2008.
“I’ll be on the tee box at Palm Springs at 11:15 Monday morning no matter what,” said Martin. “It would just be nice to be coming back for the Brier.”
Martin has never played in a Canadian men’s championship in Edmonton.
Koe, who enjoyed his best season ever coming into provincials, has regained some confidence after an up-and-down championship.
“We put ourselves in a hole and had to win five (in a row), but we’re three down, two more to go hopefully,” he said.
Koe may have turned things around for his team when he executed a double-raise takeout of shot rock on the button during Saturday’s 8-7 win against Jamie King’s talented St. Albert rink in a C Event final.
“We played good, but we just let them hang around. A good team like that, if you let them hang around, they’re going to get you in trouble and they did in nine, and even in 10 we were not looking good,” said Koe.
But after he eliminated three King rocks with his first shot in the 10th end, his second shot for the win — a draw to the four-foot — was a lot easier.
“He came through big there,” said Simmons. “Every provincial, there’s a moment or two like that where the skipper has got to come through and he’s done that all year for us.
“There’s all kinds of stories like that where teams are just about buried and something happens and away it goes. We’re hoping we can finish that script as well.
“(Sunday) is going to be a tough day. We’re going to have two tough games and we have to play like we did tonight or we’re not going to win.”
The King game was tough for the Koe team because the players are “best friends.” King third Blake MacDonald was on Koe’s world championship team in 2010.
“We were hoping to be playing them in the final or something later in the week,” said Koe.
Sunday’s semifinal with Sluchinski won’t be so much buddy, buddy as payback time for Koe.
For Sluchinski, the 25-year-old underdog from Airdrie who had never played a top-echelon team like Koe or Martin before Friday, there’ll be another first for him when he plays on national TV (Sportsnet One) in the semifinal.
“That’ll be exciting,” said Sluchinski. “I know all of the guys are excited about that. We haven’t had that experience before. More jitters for us.”
Asked about playing Koe again, Sluchinski said: “Obviously, we know it’s possible to win. We want to win again, but we’re definitely going to have to play better than we just did.”
Sluchinski said he felt “pretty relaxed” in the 1-2 game against Martin “because there was nothing to lose. But they definitely came to play. They didn’t give us a whole lot to shoot at out there, and we were just a little bit off.
“We’ve got to be better if we want to win any more games here.”
Check out my blog, Rock On, at edmontonjournal.com/rockon
© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal