Men’s provincial field taking shape

Mitch Calvert

FORT FRANCES—There’s just a month to go before the Dominion NOCA Men’s Provincial Championship comes to Fort Frances on Feb.10-14, but the committee organizing the event still could use more volunteer support.
“We’re getting a pretty good response with volunteers, but you know how that goes right up until the last minute,” committee member Ron MacKinnon said.
“We can definitely use all the help,” he stressed.
Volunteers can contact Rick Grenda at the Fort Frances Curling Club (274-6667) or fill out the volunteer application form listed on www.fortfrances.curlingclub.ca
Meanwhile, half the field of 16 rinks is now decided as Cory Nephin (Geraldton), Mike Pozihun (Thunder Bay), Murray Affleck (Keewatin), Tim Phillips (North Bay), Claude Lapointe (McIntyre), and Al Belec (Blind River) all advanced out of their respective regional playdowns just before Christmas.
Those six joined the Brad Jacobs rink (Sault Ste. Marie), who won the KIA Curling Classic (East) Superspiel in early December, and Bryan Burgess (Thunder Bay), who captured the Courtesy Freight Northern Ontario (West) Superspiel back on Nov. 17.
MacKinnon said tickets for the provincials have been selling well, with most of the window seats taken, but added passes are still available.
“Weekly passes are moving a little bit as some people bought them as stocking-stuffers, and merchandise is selling pretty good,” MacKinnon enthused.
Weekly passes cost $50 plus GST, with day passes also to be available. Merchandise can be viewed at www.2009nocamens.ca
Round-robin play will run Tuesday through Friday morning (Feb. 10-13), with Friday evening and Saturday featuring the Page playoff system involving the top four rinks.
The last opportunity for either of the two local rinks (Lorne Jackson and Anthony Smaha) to qualify would be at the inter-regional playdowns coming up Jan. 22-25 in Atikokan for Regions 1 and 2.
The top two finishers advancing from each of the three inter-regional playdowns will punch their ticket while the final provincial berths will be given to the two next-highest ranking teams in the inter-regions with the highest percentage of participating rinks.
“It’s going to be a tough field,” said Jackson said. “We’ve beat the top teams before, so we know who they are and they know who we are.
“We’ve been to the provincials twice before, last time two or three years ago in Sudbury, so we’re really looking to go back,” he added.
Jackson’s rink actually squared off against Smaha at the regionals in Keewatin last month and won, but Affleck’s rink was able to grab the coveted qualifying spot in the end.
Smaha said the opportunity to curl in a high-profile event on home ice would be a great opportunity.
“That’s a big incentive,” Smaha remarked. “We just sort of put this team together for the event, but we have some good curlers from around the district, with Craig Armstrong out of Stratton, then Butch Wensley and Brian Johnstone.
“I think our chances are just as good as anybody else,” he added. “I’ve played the teams out in Thunder Bay and given them good games, and got a couple W’s from some of those guys, but you’ve gotta be good on every shot.
“There’s no room for error,” Smaha stressed.
The provincial winner will represent Northern Ontario at the Tim Hortons Brier on March 7-15.
(Fort Frances Times)