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Battle of Northern Ontario Heats Up

(By Rob Neff and Sarah Mendek)…..The fourth draw of the Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championship featured a classic matchup between natural rivals. 

Photo by Ron Jason

Carl Levesque’s Northern Ontario team (2-1) out of the Fort William Curling Club squared off against Richard Prud’homme’s Host Team (0-3) from the Sudbury Curling Club. The Prud’homme team featured a pair of Thunder Bay curlers, lead Gino Sonego and alternate Linda Kontunen.  There was more than a position in the standings at stake here.  A solid year’s worth of bragging rights hung in the balance.

Facing a Host rock in the house, Levesque’s beautiful raise left him sitting on the button in end one. His rock was wide open, however and Prud’homme punched it out with a lovely in turn to draw first blood. The second end featured a couple of nice hit and roll shots by Host vice Sarah Lashbrook. But it was a hot takeout by Levesque that staked Northern Ontario to a 3-1 lead after two.

With a shot to the four foot by Northern Ontario lead Sharon La Froye sitting in the house, Mel Prairie nestled a shot right beside it to lay two.  Prairie’s second shot froze against a pair of Host rocks at the back of the house leaving Northern Ontario sitting pretty.  Still facing a pair of Northern Ontario counters on his last shot, Prud’homme was a bit heavy on his in turn draw attempt, allowing Northern Ontario to steal a deuce and extend their lead to 5-1.

The fourth end featured a highlight reel raise double takeout by Host second Dennis Duclos.  Facing a pair of enemy stones inside the four foot, Levesque came up just short on his final shot draw attempt.  Playing cautiously, Prud’hoome missed with the hammer, but the Host team picked up two, closing the gap to 5-3.

Coming out of the break, Prud’homme caught a nice rub off a yellow Northern Ontario stone to sit two. Levesque managed to pick off one on his final shot, allowing Prud’homme to steal a point and pull with one after five ends.

In the sixth, Mel Prairie bumped a Host shot rock and sat on the button. Like a chicken on her egg, that well protected rock sat unmolested.  Prud’homme’s takeout attempt wrecked at the top of the house. Levesque also crashed on a guard. Northern Ontario scores one to lead 6-4.

Facing three in the house and five guards out front, Prud’homme slipped a picture perfect in turn through a hole on the right side to take temporary control of the seventh end, but Northern Ontario stole a pivotal point to stretch its lead to 7-4 heading into the final end.

Reminiscent of their final game at the Northern Ontario playdowns, Levesque and Prud’homme would decide everything in the final end. However, the host team faced a Himalayan task. Their options diminished as several rocks came up short.  Down three, with only one in the house on his final shot, Prud’homme placed a skilful draw into the house, but came up a point short. Northern Ontario takes a nail biter 7-6 to complete a perfect day and move close to the leaders at 3-1.

“I like our position a lot better than I did yesterday,” Mel Prairie commented.  “Now we just have to keep making our shots and we’ll be OK.”

In other games, defending champion Manitoba looks as strong as ever.  With the score tied 4-4 after seven, undefeated Manitoba powered past British Columbia 8-4. In a tense contest, Ontario tied their game with Saskatchewan 9-9 in the last end. With the hammer in the ninth, Saskatchewan pulled it out 10-9.  Quebec broke up a tight game to pull away from Nova Scotia 11-2.  Newfoundland/Labrador suffered a letdown after pushing powerhouse Manitoba earlier in the day.  The team from the Rock fell 12-4 to undefeated Alberta.

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