Okanagan rink to defend B.C. title

Jim Cotter team, with John Morris, Ty Griffith and Rick Sawatsky are tuning up for run a Brier berth

Tyrel Griffith (left) and Rick Sawatsky are the front end for Jim Cotter’s Okanagan curling foursome.

With John Morris back in the mix, the Jim Cotter rink will take a run at its fourth consecutive B.C. men’s curling title, Feb. 8 to 12 at the Abbotsford Curling Club.

Also featuring Kelowna’s Tyrel Griffith at second and lead Rick Sawatsky, the Okanagan-based foursome will be one of 12 teams competing for the championship and a spot at the 2017 Brier in St. John’s, NL.

The Cotter crew is coming off a big win last weekend on the World Curling Tour, claiming the Abbotsford Cashspiel and the $6,000 first prize.

The Okanagan rink is gearing up not only for another run at a Brier berth next spring, but a spot at next December’s Canadian trials for the 2018 Olympic Games.

When Morris last played with Cotter, Griffith and Sawatsky in 2013-14, they reached the finals in both the Brier and Olympic trials, but came up just one step short on both occasions.

Reunited for the next two seasons and with some definite goals mind, Griffith said the Cotter team’s 2016-17 season is rounding into shape.

“I’d say we’re getting stronger with each event,” said Griffth, who has played at four previous Briers with Cotter. “Having John back, expectations are high. It’s been fun and we’ve found our groove as of late.

“It’s a different dynamic this time in that we’ve all been through this together before,” he added.

“It wasn’t the easiest coming together before, so now we know better what to expect. We’re way ahead of where we were last time.”

With the 2018 Olympics beckoning, the Cotter team has a full schedule planned over the next 12 to 18 months, including a busy December this year.

Next up for the Vernon-Kelowna-Calgary crew is the Boost National Grand Slam event, Dec. 6 to 11 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. A deep field of teams includes Kevin Koe, Brad Jacobs, Mike McEwen, Niklas Edin and Brad Gushue.

Immediately after, the Cotter team will head to Japan to for the Karuizawa Invitational, Dec. 15 to 18.

Kelowna trio with Geall…

Three Kelowna curlers will join skip Sean Geall on the Abbotsford-based team for the B.C. men’s curling championship next year.

Third Jeff Richard, second Brendan Willis and lead Dave Harper, all from Kelowna, round out the Geall foursome for the provincials, Feb. 8 to 12 at the Abbotsford Curling Club.

Richard won the B.C. men’s title as a skip in 2010.

The Geall team qualified by virtue of points collected to date on the Canadian Team Ranking System (CTRS).

Dean Joanisse from Golden Ears Winter Club in Maple Ridge has also qualified due to CTRS points.

The nine remaining rinks for the B.C. championship will come from the winners of four regional playdowns this month and one open playdown in January.