For a brief moment on Sunday evening at the Cloverdale Curling Club it appeared that Steve Wright had become a winner of the Region 11 Men’s Bonspiel Tour Championship for a third time. Needing to make a run-back double on the final rock of an extra-end championship final against Cloverdale’s Stu Harris, the Royal City skip successfully made the run-back to get both rocks moving.
But Wright had hit Harris’s guarded shot rock by the button just fractionally too thin and it jammed on a Wright rock behind it. Even if it had hit the rock behind and rolled out, Wright would have won with another rock in top house.
Earlier in the extra end, third Dean Lunn made the draw around a centre guard to the button area that set up the victory. But Lunn came deep on his second rock into the top four after Wright’s third, Terry Miller, peeled the centre guard. Miller then narrowly missed the short double that likely would have given them victory, leaving the shot rock there for Harris to guard twice.
As early as the fourth end, Wright was looking to be a good bet to win the game. Harris was heavy on his last rock draw in the third end to give Wright a steal of one and a 2-0 lead.
On his first skip rock in the fourth end, Harris was looking at a cluster of four Wright rocks guarded in the four-foot. He made probably the shot of the game when he ran one of his own guards at an angle into the pile, doubling off two of Wright’s rocks and sticking the run-in rock in front of another in the four-foot. After Wright guarded his outturn draw to the button, Harris got there with a well-played inturn angle tap against two to stay alive, down 2-1.
Harris looked to be in serious trouble again in the fifth end, after playing aggressively without last rock and leaving Wright counting three for most of the end. Wright’s first skip rock was a takeout that jammed the Harris rock and left it laying shot rather than Wright laying three.
Harris returned the favour when his last rock draw to lie two rubbed another rock and set up a double for Wright to score three. But Wright missed the hit completely and Harris dodged another bullet to steal two and take a 3-2 lead.
Wright got his mojo back in the sixth, scoring two for a 4-3 lead, set up by a hit and roll behind cover from his second Cam Johnston.
The seventh was blanked and, with hammer in the eighth end, Harris was looking for two points to win. Early on a cluster of rocks in the top eight and top 12 set up some scoring opportunities for both teams. On last rock, Harris had to draw away from centre to the eight-foot to score one and send the game into overtime.
The Championship was a 14 team event which saw the rinks divided into two pools of seven, with each pool playing a double knockout and the top two teams qualifying for the semi-finals.
Harris won the A qualifier in the A pool over Don Chaloner, also from Cloverdale. Wright was also in the A pool, but never faced Harris, and won the B qualifier against Chaloner.
In the B pool, Marpole’s Will House won the A qualifier against Royal City’s Arlen Bonesky who dropped into the B qualifier where he lost to Don Frycz, the 2013 Tour Championship winner from Delta Thistle CC.
Harris won a tight semi-final against Frycz. He was leading 6-5 without last rock in the eighth end when Frycz made a tap up on his last rock to put a rock by the button. Harris had to follow up with a run in of his own guard to score two and win 7-6.
Wright had an easier time against House in the other semi-final, stealing two in both the fifth and sixth ends to lead 5-1. House came back with two in the seventh, but was run out of rocks in the eighth which gave Wright the 5-3 win.
Change in format for next year
Next year’s Region 11 Men’s Tour Championship will include 12 teams in the field, playing under a different format from what has been used since the first event in 2009. The changes were made following a discussion with the teams during Saturday’s luncheon.
Instead of having the field divided into two pools there will now be three pools of four teams each. As well, rather than a double knockout to qualify four teams for the playoffs, teams in each pool will play a round robin to qualify six teams in total for the playoffs. Two of the pool round robin winners will earn a berth in the semi-finals and the other four teams will be seeded into the quarter finals.