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Brier Bound: Prairies Update

Who’s bound for the 2012 Tim Hortons Brier? The journey continues with an update from the Prairies.

Saskatchewan:

Steve Laycock (Photo Michael Burns)

Six of the 16 teams that will make up the field for the SaskTel Tankard provincial championship are now known. The finals, which will be held at the Assiniboia Curling Club from February 1-5, will determine who will represent the home province at the Saskatoon Tim Hortons Brier.

Steve Laycock, who last year went 4-7 at the London Brier, will be on hand in Assiniboia, along with his mates Joel Jordison, Brennen Jones and Dallan Muyres. They qualified as the Saskatchewan Tour Championship winning team.

Saskatoon’s Bruce Korte and Regina’s Jamie Schneider both qualified by way of their points finish on the Saskatchewan Curling Tour and would relish the opportunity to return to the national championship stage.

Reigning Canadian Junior champion Braeden Moskowy and two-time Saskatchewan champ Scott Bitz both qualified their teams through the accumulation of World Curling Tour performance points. Mark Herbert and his Moose Jaw support crew earned the sixth spot in the Assiniboia field as the wildcard winners with the most combined Saskatchewan and World Curling Tour points.

2011 Brier champion Jeff Stoughton (Photo Michael Burns)

The rest of the field will be determined through a regional play-down format. Five teams will advance through triple knockout play at the SaskTel Northern Tankard to be held in Nipawin from January 19-22, while the SaskTel Southern Tankard will advance five more teams through play in Swift Current over the same extended weekend.

Manitoba:

Jeff Stoughton has won the Manitoba men’s provincial curling banner on nine different occasions. The reigning world champion would love to make it an even 10 when play gets underway at the 2012 Safeway Championship in Dauphin in early February. He and his Winnipeg Charleswood Curling Club team of Jon Mead, Reid Carruthers and Steve Gould will be on hand along with 31 other entries in a modified double knockout affair which will qualify eight teams to a semi-modified double knockout format.

Four teams will then advance to a page playoff system which results in one team being crowned as Manitoba champs. It sounds like a battle of attrition, but the process produces worthy Brier reps on an annual basis.

Being the reigning champion is one thing, but in a 32-team field, there are bound to be numerous worthy contenders. That will surely be the case in Dauphin where CTRS points leader Mike McEwen and Jason Gunnlaugson, both of Assiniboine Memorial and Sean Grassie and William Lyburn out of Deer Lodge will prove dangerous. Brandon’s Rob Fowler and former Brier champ Vic Peters are also part of the provincial final field.

Alberta:

Kevin Martin (Photo Michael Burns)

An Olympic gold medal, a World Curling Championship title, four Brier wins and 11 provincial banners: Kevin Martin’s curling history is long and storied. He and his team of John Morris, Marc Kennedy and Ben Hebert will attempt to add to their legacy when play gets underway in the 2012 Boston Pizza Cup, Alberta’s provincial finals in Camrose from February 8-12. They have secured their berth in the 12-team tournament as the reigning Alberta champions.

Kevin Koe, who has earned his spot in the field through CTRS points, has only won the men’s provincial title once. He took fullest advantage of his trip to the national championship by winning the 2010 Halifax Brier, and then representing Canada quite capably by winning the World Curling Championship in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy that sme year. Also on hand for this year’s provincial shootout will be Brock Virtue of the Calgary Curling Club and Jamie King, who both earned their place through Alberta Curling Federation points accumulation.

Peace District playdowns, held in Sexsmith from January 6-8 advanced the home club’s Kurt Balderston as well as Grande Prairie’s Greg Hill to the provincial final.  Edmonton’s Shamrock Curling Club will host the Northern Men’s Playdown from January 20-22, while Calgary’s Inglewood Curling Club will be the site of the Southern Men’s Playdown from January 20-23. Both events will advance three teams to the Edgeworth Centre’s Encana Arena in Camrose for the running of the 2012 Boston Pizza Cup.