(By Rob Neff and Sarah Mendek)….Earlier today, Carl Levesque and his Northern Ontario team came through in a big way when it really counted. Facing a must win situation in the final draw, Northern Ontario shellacked Ontario 9-2, forcing a tiebreaker with Mark Ideson’s squad.
Nobody expected such a one-sided outcome in the rematch. With the luxury of a tie breaker, Ontario came up decidedly flat in their last game. Now they need to rediscover the great form they have displayed all week. Both teams boast talented young skips and plenty of skill right down their rosters. This all-Ontario tiebreaker promised to be a thrilling matchup. It certainly didn’t disappoint.
Mark Ideson’s crew needed a strong start….and they got it. Facing three Ontario rocks and without the hammer, Northern Ontario’s Mark Levesque suffered an unlucky break when his chair slipped on his delivery. The miscue allowed Ideson to curl in for four. On his second shot, Levesque bumped an Ontario rock to the back of the house to sit second shot. That rock was fully exposed, opening the door for a big Ontario end. Ideson’s perfect nose hit banished Northern Ontario’s rock. Ontario put up a huge four-spot to open the game.
Northern Ontario placed a couple of early rocks into the house against some backing to start the second. Now it was Ontario’s turn to play under a bit of pressure. A very nice Mel Prairie takeout removed Ontario’s rock laying second shot, allowing Northern Ontario to sit three. Ontario vice Katie Paialunga salvaged the situation, playing a lovely hit and roll and sliding into the four-foot to sit shot. Rick Bell popped the yellow Ontario stone out of the house, with his own hanging onto the rings. Bell’s fine nose hit left Northern Ontario laying three with skip stones to come. Ideson bumped a rock in for shot and Levesque’s takeout try jammed. Ideson raised his own rock to the back of the four-foot and left Ontario sitting two, but Levesque executed a beautiful draw under pressure and Northern Ontario settled for a point.
An artful takeout by Ontario second Tony Reynen left a yellow rock sitting on the button. Mel Prairie replied with a beauty of his own, tapping out the Ontario rock and settling in for shot. Katie Paialunga’s nose hit jammed on a Northern Ontario stone resting on the button. Levesque’s beautiful draw eliminated any double opportunity and Ideson conceded a single point.
In the fourth, a well place Paialunga guard protected a pair of Ontario rocks. A couple of Northern Ontario misses opened a window of opportunity for Ideson. Paialunga’s draw finished strong to lie buried in the eight-foot to leave Ontario laying three. Levesque drew to the four where it sat exposed. Ideson’s last shot pinballed into a complicated jam. When the dust settled, Northern Ontario picked up a pair to tie things up at the break.
A stellar draw by Ideson with a host of rocks littering the front of the house secured a deuce for Ontario in the fifth, restoring their lead 6-4.
Leads Shannon Wilcox and Sharon La Froye traded shots to the button to open the sixth. Mel Prairie cleaned them off, leaving an Ontario stone clinging to the four-foot. Rick Bell drove Ontario’s shot rock out of the house, to leave Northern Ontario sitting two. Levesque added a third. Ideson managed to remove one, but Northern Ontario scored two to square the score 6-6.
In the seventh Tony Reynen’s out turn claimed a Northern Ontario counter and rolled to the edge of the four-foot. With Ontario sitting three, Rick Bell picked out one but lost his shooter. Staring at a wide open house,, Ideson rolled into the eight-foot to sit shot. Levesque came up short on his last rock. Ontario scores three huge points to lead 9-6
Levesque needed a last end miracle. Early on, Ideson was content to keep the house clear of blue granite. However, a cluster of rocks at the back of the house proved his undoing. A Bell nose hit put one Northern Ontario stone in play. After Ideson’s take out flew wide, Ontario sat two with a spark of hope. Levesque froze to his own shot rock. Ideson’s last rock slid in for third shot, leaving Levesque a free shot for the tie. The Northern Ontario skip froze his shot to rock at the back, and the comeback miracle was complete. Tied at nine, the teams headed for an extra end.
Ontario lead Shannon Wilcox slid past a couple of Sharon La Froye guards and caught a piece of the button. Tony Reynen set up guards in front of the potential game winner. Katie Paialunga drew beside the shot rock, and then dropped a perfect guard out front. Levesque came up with apparently nothing to shoot at. His Hail Mary shot rattled a lot of granite around and nearly worked out for him. After a tense measurement, however, Ontario owned shot rock and a heart stopping 10-9 victory. Ontario moves on the face Quebec in tomorrow’s 3-4 page playoff.
An ecstatic Mark Ideson summed it up. “That was the greatest game I’ve ever been involved it. I’ve seen everything now!”
Ideson will face Quebec’s Benoit Lessard in that 3 vs 4 game scheduled for Saturday, March 24 at 10:30am. The winner will advance to the semi final and the loser is eliminated from further play.
At 2:30pm that same day, first place Alberta (Bruno Yizek) will meet Saskatchewan (Darwin Bender) in the 1 vs 2 game. The winner advances directly to the championship final Sunday at 2:30pm and the loser drops to the semi final scheduled for 10:30am Sunday.