(By Rob Neff and Sarah Mendek)…..Competition is really heating up at the Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championships as page playoff action begins. The 3-4 game pitted Mark Ideson’s Team Ontario against Benoit Lessard’s Team Quebec, with the winner moving on to Sunday’s semi-final. Ontario (5-4) survived a heart-stopping, extra end tiebreaker against Northern Ontario. Displaying a strong hitting game, Quebec (7-2) had reeled off seven consecutive victories and came into this game as the favourite.
It started auspiciously for both teams. Leads Shannon Wilcox curled her first shot square onto the button, only to watch her Quebec counterpart Johanne Daly remove it cleanly. Ontario skip Mark Ideson, facing a Quebec shot in the four-foot, played a hit and stick to sit two. His second shot stopped in the eight-foot. Lessard lost his shooter after peeling off one Ontario counter. His second shot takeout rolled into the 12-foot, allowing Ontario to steal one.
In the second end, Ontario counted rocks in the three and nine o’clock positions, courtesy of second Tony Reynen. Sebastien Boisvert cut Ontario down to one. Third Carl Marquis punched out the other and rolled his shooter into the 12-foot. A couple of Ontario misses left Quebec sitting four with the hammer. Ideson removed a Quebec rock at the back to sit shot. That left Lessard with a chance for five, but his raise was just a shade light. Ontario dodged a bullet, but Quebec still picked up two and claimed the lead.
The third end was a tidy affair, with nothing in play coming to vice shots. Katie Paialunga christened the house with a lovely draw to the eight-foot. Sebastien Boisvert played a fine raise back to assume shot position. After Ideson’s takeout, Lessard rolled to the eight. Ideson’s takeout effort slid through, allowing Quebec to steal one.
Quebec continued to keep the house clean in the fourth. Paialunga finessed a draw past high guards and buried it on the button, and Lessard conceded a single point. Quebec went to the break leading 3-2.
A huge triple takeout by Carl Marquis turned the fifth end around for Quebec. Ideson’s hit and stay gave Ontario shot. A Lessard miss set up a draw by Ideson. Another triple takeout, this time by Lessard, left Quebec with a single point.
Paialunga and Boisvert traded hits in the sixth, with Paialunga’s shooter exiting the house. With nothing in the rings for the skips, Lessard came up short on his first toss. Ideson drew to the 12-foot. Lessard peeled it, losing his shooter. With the house wide open, Ideson chose to blank the end, leaving Quebec up 4-2.
Quebec tried to turn up the heat in the seventh, spotting four rocks in the house. Paialunga pulled off a nice double to sit second shot, only to see Marquis remove it. Facing a trio of Quebec rocks and potential disaster, Ideson executed off a great clutch draw, scoring one. Ontario trailed 4-3, but relinquished the hammer coming home.
With a pair of Quebec rocks widely separated in the house. Ideson set up a centre line guard. Lessard promptly vanquished it. With the game on the line, Ideson feathered his draw to the eight-foot. Needing full eight to win the game on his last shot, Lessard came up short. Against the odds, Ontario steals one to force an extra end.
In that suspenseful extra end, Tony Reynen slipped a shot around a blue guard to sit shot. Boisvert’s double takeout try jammed to leave Ontario sitting one. Marquis chipped that rock to the back, where it clung to the 12-foot, still shot. Ideson drew to the button on his first shot, but his rock was almost fully exposed. Lessard missed a takeout attempt. Ideson placed a letter perfect guard to choke off Lessard’s options, forcing him to try a tough long raise of his own guard onto the Ontario stone on the button. His shot over curled, giving Ontario a dramatic comeback win and sending Ideson’s team into Sunday morning’s semi-final.
“Yesterday we played our best game ever,” said an ecstatic Mark Ideson. “Today we topped it!”
At 2:30pm EST today, 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.