Saskatchewan, skipped by Jason Ackerman of Regina, stole its way to an 8-7 extra end victory over Alberta (Kurt Balderston of Grande Prairie) in the 49th edition of the Canadian Mixed Curling Championship, Saturday at the Sudbury Curling Club.
Saskatchewan managed to steal a total of four points during the game – singles in the fourth, seventh and 10th ends, then the winning point in the 11th.
It was the first extra end Mixed final since Nova Scotia’s Paul Flemming edged Alberta’s Shannon Kleibrink, 12-11 in 2003 in Abbotsford, BC.
“You dream about it,” said the 32-year-old Ackerman, whose team appeared beaten after giving up three in the eighth to fall behind, 7-4. But a deuce in the ninth end, followed by dramatic steals in the 10th and 11th ends got the job done. It turned out to be the only time in the game they were actually in front, after falling behind in the first end, 3-0, then chasing throughout.
“You know, you just keep grinding. I threw two of the worst rocks I’ve thrown all week in the eighth end,” explained Ackerman. “They were bad enough to give them three, but you’ve just got to keep grinding, stay in the moment, keep enjoying it and hopefully things will work out.”
In the extra end, “They (Alberta) got a little bit of a bad break when they tried to peel a rock on the outside part of the rings, but wound up ticking the corner guard and moving it to the centre line, giving us a centre guard. We were in trouble the whole end. So then it was game on. Kurt had a three-quarter rock triple (with his last stone) but he hit it a little too thin.”
It is the first Mixed title for Ackerman, third Chantelle Eberle, second Dean Hicke and lead Colleen Ackerman, who represented the Tartan Curling Club.
It’s also a record-tying ninth Mixed crown for Saskatchewan since the championship began in 1964 in Toronto, but the first since 1996, when won by Regina’s Randy Bryden in Charlottetown. Alberta also has nine Mixed wins.
Ackerman, who earned all-star skip honours, and his wife Colleen played in the 2010 Canadian Mixed in Burlington, Ontario, finishing with a 5-6 mark. But he also won two provincial juniors (1996 and 1999) for Saskatchewan and subsequently played in the Canadian championships.
“All those little things add up,” continued Ackerman, about the experience gained at that level. “We’re students of the game. Every learning experience over time we kind of document. Try not to make the same mistakes twice.
“Our goal coming here was to win it. We work hard at our game and we have a good team. You have to come here with that mentality.”
Saskatchewan finished with an overall record of 11-4, after winding up second in the round robin with a 9-4 mark, before advancing to the final by winning the semi-final over New Brunswick. Meanwhile, Alberta had qualified for the final by finishing first with an 11-2 record.
Saskatchewan had clinched a playoff berth with a tight 5-3 win over Alberta in Draw 17 on Thursday, so today they removed all doubts as to which was the slightly better team. In today’s final, Ackerman outshot Balderston, 81%-61%, while his team held a slim 80%-77% edge as well.
Two players from Ackerman’s team will now represent Canada at the 2012 World Mixed Doubles Championship, April 23-29 in Erzurum, Turkey.
The Canadian Mixed All-Stars, based on round robin shooting percentage, were lead André Boudreau (NB), second Del Shaughnessy (AB), third Tracey Lavery (MB) and skip Jason Ackerman (SK).
Next year’s Canadian Mixed takes place at the Town of Mount Royal Curling Club in Montreal, November 17-24.