It’s simple arithmetic, really.
You had 16 teams vying for three available spots, which equalled about a 20 percent chance for a team to advance to the provincials heading into the Northwestern Ontario men’s playdowns last Thursday.
Those were the odds facing the Lorne Jackson rink which represented Fort Frances in Terrace Bay.
Joining Jackson for the 545 km drive (one way) was third Don DeBenedet, second Derek Jackson, and lead Mike Kjerulf. And the quartet was positive in their thinking going in.
But the foursome got off to a slow start to open the playdowns, losing 11-3 to the Marshall Bagdon rink (Kakabeka Falls) and then 7-6 to Jeff Zechner (Nipigon).
And suddenly, they had their backs to the wall in the triple-knockout affair.
“It was very difficult ice to play on, and it took us a while to get a handle on them,” noted Jackson, 38. “The kind of ice we played on brings out all of the mistakes you make.
“It just kind of exaggerates everything, so you have to be pretty much perfect for everything to work right,” he added.
Jackson’s rink was pretty much perfect Friday afternoon as they staved off elimination with a convincing 9-1 win over Wayne Hampson (Red Lake).
Then Jackson faced another must-win match against Ken Anderson, also of Red Lake, later that day if he hoped to make a return appearance at the provincials after four years.
“I was confident. I don’t get nervous too much, and I was very confident in my and my team’s abilities,” Jackson remarked.
The game was tight throughout, with the scored tied 5-5 heading into the 10th end. Jackson ended up pulling out the 6-5 victory.
“If you don’t bring your ‘A’ game, you’re not going to move on, and that’s what pretty much happened in our first two games,” he noted. “We struggled a bit, but on Friday we had a handle on the ice and played well.”
The narrow win over Anderson set up a date with former two-time world champion Al Hackner (Fort William Curling Club) on Saturday morning.
The game went back and forth, with neither team gaining a clear-cut advantage until Jackson racked up four points over the eighth and ninth ends to lead 8-7.
But then . . .
“We lost our last three rocks. It was garbage on the ice,” said Jackson, who gave up three points in the final end to lose 10-8. “We had him. We had the game.
“Well, I shouldn’t say that we had the game won, but we were pretty much guaranteed an extra end,” he added.
“I think we could’ve beat Hackner,” remarked Jackson, who has on two previous occasions.
“If we could’ve won that game, that would’ve been the momentum to carry us through,” he continued. “It’s just the ice conditions got the best of us and bad luck.
“Somebody didn’t want us to win,” he laughed.
“It’s not a good way to lose whenever a team loses like that and it’s not a good way to win, either,” Jackson reasoned. “We’ve won like that before and it takes away from everything.”
The three rinks that did qualify for the provincials next month in Haileybury were Bryan Burgess (Fort William Curling Club), John Salo (Port Arthur Curling Club), and Brent Taylor (Kenora).
Since Jackson has had a taste of action at the provincials before, does that increase his motivation to try and make it back?
“We want to get back, and each step you gain is another milestone,” he replied. “It’s a step closer to the ultimate goal of making it to the Brier.
“We were already planning on the way home what we were going to do for next year,” Jackson added.
And what was the mood in the car on the drive back?
“Oh, it was pretty sombre,” Jackson admitted. “If you miss a shot [and] you lose, you lose, but losing the way we did gave the question of what if? And what would’ve happened?”
So what’s the answer to that question?
“Our momentum was just picking up big time and it would’ve carried us right through,” Jackson felt.
< *c>Senior curling
In other news, the senior men’s and women’s playdowns will be taking place this weekend in Kenora.
Eight teams will be taking part on the men’s side, with Fort Frances being represented by Jim Jackson, third Rob SInclair, second Glen Jackson, and lead Stan Cottam.
The women will have six rinks competing, including two representing Fort Frances.
Judy LaBelle, third Nancy Evans, second Diane Bonot, lead Sally Stewart, and fifth Pat Steele make up one rink while the other is comprised of Florence Ogden, third Joanne Hyatt, second Lorna Robinson, and lead Gladys Kerr.
It’s simple arithmetic, really.