Friday, April 18, 2008

The Rock Report

The man behind The Curling Show is in St. John’s for a couple of days; here is his exclusive blogpost for The Curling News.

by Dean Gemmell

After leaving the New York area on the nicest day of 2008 – sunny and 73º – stepping off the plane in St. John’s after midnight was bracing. I sure hope the curling is good.

Morning games got underway at 8:40am – that’s 6:50am Eastern Time for anyone keeping score at home. I missed the first couple of ends because while I love curling, I’m not insane.

On the women’s side, teams on their last legs in “C” got the early wake-up call. I always like “C” games – win or go home makes for desperate, nervous curling. In the preliminary part of an event, it’s as close as it gets to the loser getting a candy dish. Even worse, I guess, since all the loser gets here is the opportunity to go back to the hotel and start haggling with airlines about changing flights.

There was a Death Match on Sheet A that most of us probably didn’t expect – Jennifer Jones vs. Kelly Scott. The score stayed close but Jones was controlling most ends and she went up by two after seven, stealing when Scott came a few inches deep against three counters. In eight, Jones made a clutch shot on her first – the kind of shot she seems unable to miss these days – and had an open hit to finish the game. I’m guessing that, right now, Kelly will be even less interested than usual in an interview with The Curling Show.

Heather Rankin handled Kristie Moore in a game on the centre sheet that, judging from a few random glimpses of the shotmaking, might not have deserved that location.

Shannon Kleibrink shook hands after six against Stefanie Lawton. Something about being down 7-1 after giving up three in two and then a steal of four in three left Shannon and crew running on empty. It seems an ignominious end to a season that was about half a rock from being just about her best ever in a year without Olympic Trials.

Speaking of ignominious ends – and who doesn’t enjoy a good discussion of ignominy – the Ferbey 4 shook hands early after struggling mightily against Team Shawn Adams, a squad that probably feels like they’re starting a whole new season thanks to that long layoff they got when Brian Rafuse and his team of geriatrics snatched the Nova Scotia men’s crown this year. Ferbey and his crew now get to play for their lives in “C”.

The game between Jeff Stoughton and Brad Gushue, two other teams completing seasons they surely found frustrating, seemed to feature the best shotmaking on the ice. Gushue blew it open, however, in four. Up one without the brick, Stoughton was staring at three locked Gushue stones in the over-sized Tylenol Arthritis button. He ticked – just – his own front rock and gave up the bundle of four. Frankly, it didn’t look like he’d remove more than one if he did get by his front stone. Even with reports that Brad’s popularity has ebbed here on The Rock, the hometown fans seemed to love it.

And what about the fans? Well, it was an 8:40am draw on a Friday so I don't think it’s fair to judge yet. Let’s call it a decent smattering. This arena does seem like a terrific curling venue – it seats about 5,000 but has some of the amenities we expect at bigger, newer facilities.

I’m not positive but it doesn’t seem as though the big late sideways snap we’ve come to expect from Slam ice and rocks is there. Not to imply that it isn’t the usual great Mark Shurek surface but maybe a touch different. I’ll try to ask the players if that’s the case.

The big awards were handed out last night at a mega banquet; here’s a new report, and I’ll have more of my own thoughts later. A salute to Mr. MVP, Marc Kennedy of Team Kevin Martin (Insight Sports photo by Anil Mungal).

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