(By Rob Neff and Sarah Mendek)…. Alberta is playing like a team on a mission at the Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championships in Thunder Bay, Ont. Unbeaten through four draws, veteran skip Bruno Yizek’s crew has been razor sharp. Three-time Canadian finalists, Alberta seems determined to shed the bridesmaid’s mantle this time around.Representing the Club de Curling de Magog, Quebec (2-2) seems to have found its game after a slow start. Coming off two convincing wins in draws three and four, skip Benoit Lessard knows that a victory over the frontrunners from Alberta could give his team some serious inertia.
Quebec’s front end on Johanne Daly and Sebastien Boisvert put yellow rocks in the house, while a couple of misses forced Alberta to play uphill in the first end. With a Quebec shot nudging the button, Yizak came up short on his out turn draw. Quebec stole a single point to open the game.
A few centimetres made all the difference in end two. Lessard played a nice raise to sit in the four-foot. Yizak countered with a near perfect draw, but it wasn’t quite good enough. Quebec stole another point to go up 2-0.
Quebec decided on an aggressive strategy in end three and it paid off. Johanne Daly finessed both her lead rocks into the four-foot. With Carl Marquis and Benoit Lessard setting up a fortress of guards, one of those rocks held up. Quebec stretched its lead to 3-0.
Alberta lead Anne Hibbard changed Quebec’s angle, using fresh ice on the left side of the sheet. Quebec second Boisvert calmly picked off her shot in the twelve-foot. The teams exchanged takeouts until Marquis’ attempt ticked a guard, opening the door for Alberta. Yizak took advantage, playing a nice raise onto a Quebec stone in the eight-foot for Alberta’s first point of the game.
In the fifth end, Yizak took out Quebec’s second shot rock, only to see his shooter roll out of the house, creating a golden opportunity for Lessard. The Quebec skip made no mistake. His perfect hit and stick put La Belle Province up 5-1.
Alberta lead Anne Hibbard continued her consistent play in the sixth, opening the end with a great draw, followed by a precise takeout. But the key to the end was a Lessard shot that slithered off a guard and through a narrow portal to sit shot rock. Facing two, Yizak got a bad bounce off a guard. Quebec added another pair, putting the game pretty much out of reach. Alberta fought back gamely with a pair of its own in the seventh, but trailing by four, they simply ran out of rocks in the eighth. Quebec wins 7-3 for their third straight victory, while Alberta takes its fist loss. This was a hard fought and well earned victory for Quebec. Alberta simply faced a sheet of yellow rocks all afternoon. Quebec skip Benoit Lessard summed it up in a few short words, “We just played really well today.”
Alberta wasn’t the only team to fall from the undefeated ranks today. Mark Ideson’s Ontario rink (3-2) dropped previously unblemished Manitoba by a score of 8-1.
Carl Levesque’s Northern Ontario team (5-1) from the host Fort William Curling Club grabbed a share of first place, coming back with two in the final end to edge Saskatchewan 7-6.
Bristish Columbia (3-2) stayed in the playoff hunt with a 9-2 decision over winless Newfoundland/Labrador.
The Northern Ontario Host Team picked up its first win, 6-3 over Nova Scotia (0-5).
Action continues tonight with an evening draws starting at 6:30 Eastern.