Based on their play over the last two weekends, it wouldn’t be a stretch to call Jim Cotter and his Vernon/Kelowna foursome one of the hottest curling rinks in Canada.
Cotter’s team made it to the final of the Rogers Masters of Curling Grand Slam event on Sunday in Brantford, Ont., before losing 7-5 to Edmonton’s Kevin Koe.
Cotter, new third Jason Gunnlaugson, second Tyrel Griffith and lead Rick Sawatsky, picked up $11,000 for their efforts.
After a shaky 0-2 start, Cotter and Co. reeled off six straight wins in Brantford, including a tiebreaker to qualify for the playoffs. Cotter then downed Manitoba’s Mike McEwen and Steve Laycock of Saskatchewan to earn a spot in the final.
“It was a really good event for us,” said Cotter. “We were thrilled to be in that position with a chance to win, especially after going 0-2 to start. The guys have been playing well, so it’s been a couple of pretty good weeks for us.”
Just a week earlier, Cotter’s team reached the semifinals of an event in Swan River, Manitoba and picked up $6,500 for its efforts.
The two-time defending B.C. men’s champs, the Cotter rink underwent one significant change in the off-season with departure of third Kevin Folk who is pursuing a career in law enforcement in Calgary.
Jason Gunnlaugson, 28, who moved to Vernon from Winnipeg this year has turned out to be a good fit for the Cotter team.
“We lost a really good player in Kevin and it’s hard to replace that,” said Cotter. “But things are working out. Jason is a great player, a young guy who is full of energy and enthusiasm. Tyrel is just playing phenomenal, and Rick and I have playing together for 10 years, so it’s a really good group we have.”
With his latest results, Cotter has moved up to ninth spot on the World Curling Tour money list, and has also made significant jumps on both the order of merit and the Canadian Team Ranking System lists.
The CTRS is used to determine which rinks will compete in next year’s pre-trials for the Olympics, one of Cotter’s longer-term goals.
In the more immediate future, the Cotter crew is looking forward to playing home as Kelowna plays host to the next Grand Slam event, the Canadian Open from Dec. 12 to 16.
Eighteen of Canada’s best rinks will pursue $100,000 in prize money.
“We’re extremely excited about that,” Cotter said. “Having events like this at home are few and far between, so we’ll be working hard to be ready for that.”
Cotter will defend the B.C. men’s curling championship Feb. 5 to 10 in Parksville.