In a game decided by mere centimetres on the last rock, Jim Cotter’s Vernon/Kelowna foursome defeated New Westminster’s Brent Pierce to win their second consecutive B.C. men’s curling title last year.
Both rinks have every intention of being in the mix again in 2013 as the provincial championship opens Wednesday morning in Parksville.
The Cotter rink, also featuring third Jason Gunnlaugson, second Tyrel Griffith and lead Rick Sawatsky, have shown flashes this season, winning the Vernon cash event in the fall, and finishing second in Brantford at the Rogers Masters of Curling.
Cotter also qualified for the playoffs in Kelowna last month at the Canadian Open, before losing in the quarterfinals to eventual winner Glenn Howard.
“We’ll probably have a bit of a target on our backs at provincials,” said Cotter, who posted a 2-3 record last week at The National in Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia. “We’re excited about playing and looking forward to seeing if we can do it again. We got some quality games in last week in Nova Scotia, so we should be ready to go.”
Pierce, who has Kelowna’s Jeff Richard playing third, has also had a solid season, qualifying in five of seven World Curling Tour events, including wins in Kamloops and Cloverdale.
Richard, in his second season with Pierce, said there will be plenty to play for over the next five days in Parksville.
“Obviously, the Brier is still one of the best events in curling anywhere and that’s reason enough to want to win B.C.,” said Richard, the 2010 B.C. men’s champ as a skip. “But there are also points available to get to the pre-Olympic trials, and we’re just outside of that right now on the CTRS (Canadian Team Ranking System). There’s a lot on the line in this event.”
For the second straight year, the B.C. championship will feature a 16-team format—with A, B and C events—with the final to be played Sunday afternoon.
Included in the field are former provincial champs Sean Geall, Dean Joanisse and Deane Horning, along with up-and-comer Jay Wakefield of Royal City.
Jim Cotter isn’t expecting any gimmes at provincials.
“It’s a great field this year, probably one of the best we’ve seen in quiet a while,” Cotter said. “In curling, you’ve gotta be on, or your week can be over in a hurry. There are teams with Brier experience and some good young teams, so it’s going to be tough.”
Reaching the B.C. final is nothing new for Brent Pierce who has been there nine times in the past.
After dropping a heartbreaker in last year’s final to Cotter 7-5—in a game decided on the last shot—Richard said the Pierce team is motivated to make amends in 2013.
“We’re definitely motivated to get back to that final game,” said Richard. “Losing last year, that was tough but that’s curling. We have the experience and we want to put ourselves in a position to give it another try. We’re motivated for (lead) Grant (Dezura) too, he’s the only one of us who hasn’t been to a Brier and we’d like to get this one for him.”
The Cotter rink opens play Wednesday at 9 a.m. against Richard Brower from the Peace Arch Curling Club. Pierce will face Vernon’s Mark Longworth at 2 p.m.
The provincial champion will represent B.C. at the Tim Hortons Brier, March 2 to 10 in Edmonton.