By Rob Neff and Sarah Mendek…A Battle of the Titans! The afternoon 1 vs 2 Page Playoff featured Bruno Yizek’s Alberta foursome and Darwin Bender’s Team Saskatchewan. Alberta (8-1 round robin record) has been the class of the field all week. Saskatchewan (7-2) was almost as good. Both teams boast talent and experience and this matchup lived up to its billing.
The teams opened the game with a cautious, cat and mouse approach. Holding the hammer, Alberta chose to blank the first two ends. Attempting to force the issue in the third end, Saskatchewan lead Larry Schrader curled a shot neatly into the house. With a pair of Saskatchewan rocks in play, Alberta second Martin Purvis performed an ideal hit and stick. Saskatchewan third Gil Dash buried his hit and roll behind a guard. After an Alberta takeout, Darwin Bender’s guard slid deep, creating a double opportunity for Yizek, who picked off only one, rolling out himself. Bender peeled off Alberta’s rock and saved his shooter for second shot. Yizek’s takeout just grazed the Saskatchewan shot rock, and Saskatchewan stole two points to open the scoring.
In a very open fourth end, Bender missed a takeout on an Alberta rock at the back of the eight-foot. Alberta set up a long guard and Bender’s takeout try slipped through the house, allowing Alberta to count two and tie the game.
After Alberta’s Jack Smart flew by a Saskatchewan rock in the eight-foot, Gil Dash executed a perfect nose hit to lay two with the hammer. Smart responded with a hit of his own to lay shot. Alberta played an in-turn into the 12-foot, where it served double duty as an effective guard and third shot. Bender nearly pulled off a remarkable double, but an Alberta rock jammed at the back, where it clung to the 12-foot as shot. Yizek’s final rock stalled a bit short, giving Bender a shot at three huge points. Bender hit the Alberta rock at the back, but his shooter rolled out, taking a valuable point with it. Saskatchewan scores two to lead 4-2.
Displaying pinpoint hitting, the front ends continued to keep the house relatively clean to start end six. A fine draw by Jack Smart gave Alberta two rocks in the house. Gil Dash peeled one and Darwin Bender got the other. Yizek hit Saskatchewan’s counter on the nose to sit shot. Bender replied and left his shooter just hugging the rings. A nose hit gives Alberta a point, but costs them the hammer.
A log jam obscured the house in end seven until Saskatchewan second Marie Wright broke it up. After Jack Smart and Gil Dash sailed between the guards and through the house, Bender found his draw weight and pulled into the eight-foot for shot. Alberta showed the form that comes with years of experience, bumping out Saskatchewan’s shot rock and rolling comfortably under cover. Bender’s draw attempt slid to the back of the house to sit second shot. After Yizek whistled through the house, Bender also went too deep, allowing Alberta to steal a point and tie the game 4-4.
With Alberta sitting one behind cover in the eighth end, Saskatchewan removed a guard to expose Alberta’s rock just in the four-foot behind the tee-line. Bender’s draw stopped a shade short. Yizak’s guard partially plugged the hole, but left Bender a narrow port to the shot rock. Bender found the gap, but slid just wide. Alberta stole the point to win 5-4 in a nail biter.
Jack Smart was quick to compliment his team’s opponent. “I thought Saskatchewan played very, very well,” he commented.
Alberta coach Andy Jones expressed surprise at the game’s style. “We didn’t plan to play that wide open,” he said. “I thought those last two ends especially, were really well played.”
Ontario’s Mark Ideson, by virtue of his win over Quebec in the 3 versus 4 game, will meet Saskatchewan in the semi final. The winner will meet Alberta for the championship.