(By Rob Neff and Sarah Mendek)…… The round robin portion of the 2012 Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championship in Thunder Bay, ON at the Fort William Curling Club has concluded with five teams earning the right to move on to the playoffs.It doesn’t get better than this. Ontario (5-3) and Northern Ontario (4-4) squared off on the final day of round robin play with a playoff spot on the line. True, Ontario controls its own destiny and goes straight in with a win today. However, it’s a home game for Carl Levesque’s Fort William team. With a big crowd solidly behind them, Levesque’s squad was pumped for this game and the opportunity to force a tiebreaker. Meanwhile, defending champion Manitoba (4-4) was also in the mix. A Manitoba victory over Quebec, coupled with an Ontario loss, would create a three-way playoff.
Just as Carl Levesque hoped, Northern Ontario got off to a strong start. With hammer, they immediately placed three rocks in the house, with a Rick Bell guard out front.
A double jam left Northern Ontario still laying two, with shot rock partially buried. Levesque’s guard attempt slid into the four-foot, creating a double opportunity for Ontario. Ideson bumped one. Levesque’s out turn draw pulled up short, but Northern Ontario still opened with a deuce.
Northern Ontario second Mel Prairie played a draw to the four foot, putting more pressure on Ontario in the second end. Rick Bell covered it further. Levesque played a skillful draw well into the top 12 to count two further pressuring Ontario. Mark Ideson responded with a gem of a draw into the four foot, cutting Northern Ontario down to a single point.
With a 3-0 lead in the third, Northern Ontario was content to clear Ontario rocks out of the house. With one counting for Northern Ontario, Levesque slid into the edge of the 12, also protecting his shot rock. Ideson just ticked on guard on his double takeout attempt. Levesque spotted a third shot into the top 12. With three counting and rocks spread across the face of the house, Ideson had precious few options. His draw effort wrecked on a guard, allowing Northern Ontario to steal three more and take a 6-0 stranglehold on the game.
Into the fourth Ontario needed points and needed them fast. Carl Levesque punched out an Ontario counter with his first rock. Ideson continued to struggle, pumping his first shot through the house. Northern Ontario stole another to boost their lead to 7-0.
In the fifth, an Ideson hit and roll found the four foot. A guard picked off Levesque’s narrow takeout attempt. Trying to score two, Ideson’s last shot draw slipped too deep in the house, but Ontario broke through for a single point.
Ontario’s struggles to hit the broom continued in the sixth. A fine draw by Carl Levesque on his last shot handed Northern Ontario another deuce, putting the game virtually out of reach at 9-1.
Ontario picked up a singleton in the seventh, followed by handshakes all around. Forced into a tiebreaker rematch with Northern Ontario this afternoon, Mark Ideson’s squad will regroup and look to rediscover the form it has shown all week.
Northern Ontario skip Carl Levesque was justifiably thrilled with his team’s performance. “I’m really happy. We got plenty of sleep last night and today we had a great game. We also get our names on the John McCrae Trophy for the top team out of Ontario and bragging rights for a whole year.”
There will be a new champion this year as Manitoba’s Dennis Thiessen (4-5) missed a glorious opportunity to move into a tiebreaker, dropping a 9-2 decision to Benoit Lessard’s powerful Quebec team (7-2). High flying Bruno Yizek of Alberta (8-1) continued to build momentum heading into the one-two playoff, stopping Frank LaBounty of British Columbia (3-6) by a score of 8-6. Newfoundland & Labrador (2-7), behind skip Joanne MacDonald, finished on a winning note, 8-4 over Nova Scotia (3-6). Saskatchewan’s Darwin Bender rink (7-2) tuned up for its playoff game with a 7-4 win over Richard Prud’homme’s Northern Ontario Host team (1-8).
The playoff scenario is as follows:
Northern Ontario’s Carl Levesque will face Ontario’s Mark Ideson in a tie-breaker, Friday, March 23 at 2:30pm. The winner advances to the 3 vs 4 game while the loser is eliminated.
The winner of the tie-breaker 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.