With a 5-4 win over Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., on Saturday afternoon in Kitchener, Ont., Morris, Jim Cotter, Tyrel Griffith, Rick Sawatsky and coach Pat Ryan have secured their spot in the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Canadian Curling Trials, presented by Monsanto, Dec. 1-8 at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg — the event that will decide Canada’s teams for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
This will be Morris’s fourth trip to the Canadian Curling Trials, and he knows that means he’ll be going head-to-head with his former skip and 2010 Olympic gold-medal teammate, Kevin Martin — tantalizingly, in the final round-robin draw on Dec. 6 at 8:30 a.m. Winnipeg time (get your tickets here!)
“Is he in that bonspiel?” joked Morris after his win in Page playoff A-B final at the Capital One Road to the Roar Pre-Trials, presented by Monsanto. “I think every game there is going to be a grind. I’ve been in three Trials. I think it’s even more pressure than the Olympics. I’m sure we’ll have a great match against Kev, we’ll be gunning for each other. That was a tough break at the end of last year, but it had to happen. I’m sure we’re going to have a barn burner, and I look forward to it.”
In a game that saw its share of misses in among the highlight-reel shots, Morris worked the scoreboard to have hammer coming home, and Cotter, who throws final stones, made the cold draw to the eight-foot for the win.
“It feels tremendous,” said Morris after the presentation of Roar of the Rings crests to the team. “I’m real proud of the guys. We had a heck of a week. I don’t think that was either of our best games by any means, but we hung tough, and we grinded one out. All we wanted was to be tied up coming home with the hammer, and Jimmy put one right where we need it, and it was a good team effort.”
Morris praised the play of his team, especially Cotter, who struggled at the beginning of the game.
“He’s our stable force,” Morris said. “He’s our shotmaker. We’ve just got to be sure to give him the shots to make. He’s a true leader on this team too.”
The good news for Jacobs, backed up by teammates Ryan Fry, E.J. Harnden, Ryan Harnden and coach Tom Coulterman, is that he has still has a chance to follow Morris to Winnipeg. He’ll meet the winner of the Page Playoff C-C game between Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., and Steve Laycock of Saskatoon, who play on Sunday morning to decide the final playoff position.
Gushue and Laycock emerged as winners from the two C-Event finals on Saturday afternoon, grabbing their last shot at qualifying for the final spot up for grabs at the Capital One Road to the Roar.
In his game against Greg Balsdon of Elgin, Ont,, Gushue took control early and kept it going for a 9-4 win.
Balsdon made it into the final after defeating Mark Kean of Ajax, Ont., 9-7, on Saturday morning, while Gushue was riding the momentum of an 11-4 romp over Jake Higgs of Glencoe, Ont. Gushue blanked the first, then kicked off the scoring with four points in the second and never looked back in a decisive win.
In the other C-Event final, Laycock had to draw the four-foot to notch a 5-4 win over Rob Fowler of Brandon, Man.
“We missed a good chance to get into the Page (A-B) game last night, but to bounce back and get into the playoffs today was big,” said Laycock about his loss to Jacobs in the B-Event final. “We played probably our best game of the week, and we had a real good feel for the weight, which was a difference. Last night we kind of lost that for a few ends there, but we had it for all ten ends today.”
Laycock said it’s hard to keep the prize at the end of the event – a spot in the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings – out of mind while playing, but that needs to be part of the preparation for each game.
“It’s not realistic to ignore it,” he said. “That’s what you’re here playing for. And that kind of motivates you between games to be ready, so I don’t think you should ignore it.”
The first women’s Trials qualifier will be decided Saturday at 7 p.m. between A-Event winner Kelly Scott of Kelowna, B.C., and B-Event winner Renée Sonnenberg of Grande Prairie, Alta. The loser of that game will play Val Sweeting of Edmonton, who defeated Calgary’s Cheryl Bernard 9-7 in the Page playoff C-C game on Saturday morning.
Click here to see post-game interviews with Steve Laycock and John Morris.
The Capital Road to the Roar continues on Saturday with a draw at 7 p.m. (all times EST). Playoff draws will be broadcast on Saturday and Sunday by TSN/RDS, the official broadcast partner of the Season of Champions. Go to http://www.curling.ca/championships/television-and-webcast-schedule/ for the schedule.
Live scoring, statistics and updated draw brackets are available at http://www.curling.ca/scoreboard/
The French version of this story will be available at http://www.curling.ca/2013roadtotheroar-fr/ as soon as possible.
To purchase tickets to the 2013 Capital One Road to the Roar, presented by Monsanto, go to http://www.curling.ca/2013roadtotheroar-en/tickets/
For ticket information about the 2013 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings, presented by Monsanto, go to http://www.curling.ca/2013roaroftherings-en/tickets/