Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Armstrong rink advances to provincials

Not another soul stepped forward so Craig Armstrong answered the call to arms.
Now he has a leg up on a possible provincial championship, with even greater glory awaiting him on Canada’s eastern seaboard.

The Stratton skip and his rink of third Ted Heyens, second Kevin Nielson, and lead Lawrence Armstrong will vie for the Travelers (formerly The Dominion) Curling Club Championship of Northern Ontario after posting a 4-0 record at the regional championship in Atikokan over the weekend.
“Nobody was going to go from Stratton so I put our team in,” said the soft-spoken Armstrong, who competed in the club players-only tournament in 2010 and 2011.
“It feels pretty good.
“I’m not sure what’s waiting for us at provincials [March 28-30 in Copper Cliff],” he admitted.
“It would feel really good to get to nationals [Nov. 18-23 in Halifax] but we’ve got to take things one day at a time,” he reasoned.
Armstrong opened play by dumping Paul Warkentin (Keewatin) 7-1 in six ends, then romped to a 9-3 triumph in seven ends over Enzo Martone (Red Lake).
Then facing Clint Taylor (Atikokan) in his next outing, Armstrong looked to be on cruise control after a six-ender in the second made it 6-1.
But Taylor refused to quit on home ice, dragging himself back into the contest with two in the fifth and steals of one in the sixth and seventh.
The initial hole proved too big to climb out of, however, as Armstrong ran Taylor out of rocks in the eight for a 7-6 victory.
That set up a key confrontation with former two-time provincial men’s championship participant Lorne Jackson from Fort Frances, who at 2-1 needed to beat Armstrong to force a rematch on Sunday.
Tied 3-3 in the fourth, Armstrong managed a single before stealing a crucial pair in the sixth to lead 6-3.
Jackson fought back with two in the seventh, but Armstrong scored one with the hammer in the final end when Jackson was heavy on a draw attempt to win 7-5.
The loss left Jackson in a three-way tie for second in the five-team field.
“I played Lorne a few times several years ago, but he curls on Wednesdays now and I curl on Mondays so I don’t see him much,” said Armstrong, who liked how his rink took advantage of the generosity of others.
“We got misses at the right time and capitalized on our opportunities,” he noted.
For Jackson’s part, it was a brass ring that was tantalizingly close but ultimately out of reach.
“For two more shots, it might be us that’s going,” said Jackson, whose roster was impacted by a rule brought in by the competition committee.
With his brother and regular third, Derek Jackson, unable to attend the regional playdowns, the Fort team had to put substitute Adam Bolen, formerly of Stratton but now living in Thunder Bay, at lead.
Regular second Mark Pederson moved to third and lead Cory Labbe to second.
The thrown-together quartet won its opener 7-6 over Martone, then bombed Taylor 15-1 in six ends highlighted by the rare feat of scoring one, two, three, four, and five points in separate ends.
But Warkentin used a steal of three in the fourth as the foundation for a 7-5 victory.
“I’ve done the serious competitive curling and now it’s nice to get to play something that’s more relaxed,” said Jackson.

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