Thursday, March 26, 2009

Day 4 Wrap-up - 2009 TSX Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championship

Judging by the comments on our wheelchaircurling blog, BC were firm favourites to win a third successive crown at the 2009 TSX Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championships here in Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia. At the end of round robin play, they sit top of the table with an 8-1 record, and will face 7-2 Alberta in tomorrow's Page playoff 1-2 game.

BC began the day facing Chris Daw's Newfoundland & Labrador team in an eagerly anticipated battle between Team Canada skips past and present. In fairness to Daw, he is skipping a team with more potential than experience, and he had done well to coax them to 3-4 record going into the final day. They were no match for the defending champions, though they delivered a scare, posting a 4 to pull within one going into the break. But BC score a succession of big ends and ran out 13-5 winners.

BC faced co-leaders Alberta in the final draw, a game delayed for a medical time out when one of the Alberta players was delayed getting onto the ice. While players, coaches and officials all made every effort to accommodate the delay, by rule Alberta were penalised by their clock starting at the end of the official's time out, and losing one point and one end for every five minutes delay. Alberta thus started the game at the top of the 3rd without hammer and down two points.

The game was only to choose hammer in the Page 1/2 game, but Alberta fought hard, starting with two steals, but eventually fading to a 6-2 loss. The teams do it all again tomorrow afternoon.
Third place Manitoba had an easy win over Quebec in the morning, and then faced Ontario, who needed to win to avoid a tie-break with the northern neighbours. Manitoba had two steals of 2 after the break, and won 7-4 ensuring third place in tomorrow's Page playoff. Northern Ontario had earlier won the second Annual John MacCrae Trophy for top Ontario team. Ex-Ontario coach Bob Pippy writes from Florida that John MacCrae was the long time General Manager of the Ontario Curling Association and a strong supporter of Wheelchair Curling.

Northern Ontario could have won a playoff place outright had they beaten Nova Scotia, a game we blogged (replay the commentary here) but they failed to put away a team that has a skip that can throw beautifully under pressure. Nova Scotia stole in the eighth and the extra to win 8-6. They featured in the only two extra end games; both against Ontario teams.

Quebec and Saskatchewan should go home with heads high after winning three games in their first year of competition. Quebec is an especially promising side and youthful, with established athletes from other disciplines who will have learned a lot from this year's intense competition. Their second, Jaques Martin, looks like he could throw a curling stone the length of the sheet without it touching ice, and relegated Chris Daw's biceps to something you could kick sand at. Coach Al Whittier is a great example of what can be done in a very short time with drive and enthusiasm and athletes that want to learn.

Saskatchewan will return home knowing they scored the biggest end recorded at a Nationals, a 7 in the 4th in their game against Ontario, who had been lying 1 but raised a Saskatchewan stone into the rings, taking out shot stone. I'll say no more in deference to the Ontario coach who threatened to let down my tires if this was mentioned.

It will be up to Northern Ontario to upset the bulk of the podium predictions tomorrow. Skip Wayne Ficek promised an early night, and that's something that I can relate to. See you online tomorrow for a rerun of the Battle of Ontario, and coverage of the Page playoffs.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations to BC for NOT playing Darryl Neighbour late in the week. I think it was appropriate to rest teammates on the three day game, and then leave him on the sidelines for the big games.

It shows a sporting spirit that should not be fogotten.

Can you imagine a team with Armstrong and Neighbour in this competition?

Anonymous said...

Brings up, once again, how does wheelchair curling integrate the Team Canada players?

To bring Team Canada directly into the Nationals at this point in time will eliminate a lot of the competitive nature of this competition. How about Team Canada members NOT being allowed to participate, and they play the National winners after the event, say in a best of three or five playoff as a separate event?

What do you think, Eric? Maybe Jim or Darryl could be asked as well?

Anonymous said...

I agree.

Kudos to Team BC.

They could field Jim and Darryl, and on the ice in Halifax (heavy and swingy), their big weight hits with accuracy would be no contest at the Nationals.

It is a true sense of fair play, allowing the competition to enjoy a truly competitive atmosphere.

Anonymous said...

I agree that BC has shown some real class with their decisions on who has played so far.

I also heard that the reason Darryl Neighbour was selected as fifth, was that Jim Armstrong was questionable in even coming to Halifax. Shed any light, Eric?

Anonymous said...

So now we are back to the pre-competition question.

Should Jim Armstrong even be allowed to play?

He won last year, having played less than one season.

He wins the Worlds in his second season.

You have said, Eric, that his knowledge is the advantage, and it appears it is showing again here. BC is on top of the heap (again) as they go into playoffs.


It isn't his support cast, who would be reasonably competitive, but not winning, in my opinion without Jim Armstrong.

If BC's advantage is Jim's knowledge, it is an unfair advantage, since experience is a skill that cannot be acquired quickly. Therefore, BC will continue to take a play-off berth for years and years, while the rest of us try to catch up.

A compettive balance is lost because of one player.....I am not saying it is fair to not have him play, but is it fair to the rest of the field to have him play?

Manitoba came off after their game, having clearly outplayed the BC Team, and lost by 4, shaking their heads over the way they were out-strategized, and wore the results of a few BIG TIME shots from Armstrong.

What's the answer, Eric?

He has had his big win this year, in an arena we can only dream of.

Anonymous said...

Actually, why should Darryl sit?

He is eligible, and would enhance BC's chances to win, by a long shot.

There are five medals, and someone sitting to improve the BC's chance of gold may make sense.

Anonymous said...

It is the original question. Jim's knowledge, ice-reading, etc. combined with his shotmaking gives BC too big an advantage.

Sit Jim, and have Darryl play. Would make for a great play-off.

Anonymous said...

Big query, yet again, should Jim play?

He had ONE bad game, and lost.

The team has had a number of bad games, and they continue to win.....why?

Obviousy, Armstrong has TOO much of an impact.

Time to assess Team Canada's involvement, or at least Jim's involvement.

Let'skeep the championship competitive to all.

. said...

I don't have a lot of time to follow up on the comments while I'm working, but just want to say that Darryl is here as an alternate to a team that won the playdowns. He is not being "sat down" because it would be unfair to the other teams to have him play.

Had Darryl been on Jim's team when they won the BC Provincials, they would be playing together.

. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Come on Eric, If winning was everything for BC, he would by playing, and almost guarantee a BC win.

Good on the Coach and team to show a sense of fair play, and let Jim try to handle any shortcomings by himself (as, ironically, he has, to date).

Anonymous said...

The game and championship was friendlier, and not nearly as cutthroat before Armstrong