Worlds berth on the line!

Team Canada, from left, Karrick Martin, Darren Moulding, Brendan Bottcher and Brad Thiessen are playing in the Americas Zone Challenge in Lacombe, Alta., beginning Friday. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Americas Zone Challenge begins Friday in Lacombe, Alta.

A berth in the 2022 World Men’s Curling Championship will go to the winning country in the Americas Zone Challenge, beginning Friday at the Lacombe Curling Club in Lacombe, Alta.

Teams from Canada, Mexico and Brazil will play a double round-robin, no-playoff competition Friday through Sunday, and the country with the best record will earn its way into the field for the 2022 World Men’s Championship, scheduled for April 2-10 in Las Vegas.

The Canadian hopes are riding on the shoulders of the reigning Tim Hortons Brier champions from Edmonton — skip Brendan Bottcher, vice-skip Darren Moulding, second Brad Thiessen, lead Karrick Martin, alternate Patrick Janssen and coach Don Bartlett.

That’s the lineup that claimed gold in the bubble last March, winning its first Tim Hortons Brier title after finishing in the runner-up spot the three previous years.

Team Bottcher also will be competing at the Tim Hortons Curling Trials, presented by AGI, Nov. 20-28 in Saskatoon.

Canada has competed in every world men’s championship since the event was inaugurated in 1959, and has won a leading 36 gold medals. Brazil and Mexico, meanwhile, are attempting to qualify for their first world men’s championship.

The Americas Zone has two guaranteed berths into world men’s and women’s championships; the U.S. is guaranteed a berth into the men’s worlds as the host team this season, meaning Canada can be challenged by other countries in the zone for the right to attend the world championship.

It’s the second time Canada has participated in the Americas Zone Challenge. In 2018 — also with Las Vegas hosting the worlds — Brazil challenged Canada, and Canada’s Team Glenn Howard swept a best-of-five series  to earn Canada its world championship berth, winning by scores of 15-1, 8-3 and 6-3.

It will be Brazil’s seventh time competing in the Americas Zone Challenge and Mexico’s second.

Brazil’s lineup will feature skip Marcelo Mello, vice-skip Ricardo Losso, second Gilad Kempenich, lead Filipe Nunes and alternate/coach Henrique Kempenich.

Mexico’s team will consist of skip Jesus Barajas; vice-skip Ramy Cohen, second Christopher Barajas and lead Alex Sánchez.

In the most recent Americas Zone Challenge, in November 2019 at Eveleth, Minn., Greg Persinger’s U.S. team swept the double round-robin with a 4-0 record while Mexico posted a 2-2 record and Brazil was winless.

In previous years, Brazil had challenged the U.S. four times — in 2017, 2015, 2010 and 2009 — and has never won a game, being swept 3-0 in best-of-five series all four times.

Here is the schedule of games (all times Mountain):

  • Friday — 7 p.m., Canada vs. Brazil
  • Saturday — 9 a.m., Brazil vs. Mexico; 2 p.m. Canada vs. Mexico; 7 p.m. Canada vs. Brazil
  • Sunday — 9 a.m. Brazil vs. Mexico; 2 p.m. Canada vs. Mexico

Ticket details are available on the Lacombe Curling Club website.

Curling Canada