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Red Deer Classic to be competitive

Better late than never.

Rob Armitage and his Red Deer rinkmates will play their first competitive games of the season in the World Curling Tour’s Red Deer Classic running Friday to Monday at the Red Deer Curling Centre and Michener Hill.

“I’m not sure about the rest of the guys, but I haven’t thrown a rock yet,” said Armitage, who along with third Keith Glover, second Randy Ponich and lead Wilf Edgar captured the Canadian senior men’s championship last March and will represent the country in the 2013 world championship set for April 13-20 at Fredericton, N.B.

“I’m prepared to take a whipping this week, if need be. But I’ve always been a quick-out-of-the-gate guy.”

The Armitage foursome will use the $33,000 Red Deer Classic as an early tune-up for the senior worlds and the skip plans on entering at least one more WCT event this winter.

It might be an early tune-up, but it’s a late start in regards to the WCT schedule, which opened in September.

“By cashspiel standards, it’s not early. The season is actually winding down,” said Armitage. “A lot of these teams are 30 games into the season.”

That being said . . .

“Our (senior) worlds are in late April. It’s going to be a long year so if we start a little later we’re going to finish a little later,” said Armitage. “We could lose a whole bunch of games this year but if we win in April you’d have to say it was a good year.”

With the extra four sheets of ice at the Curling Centre, the men’s division of the Classic was expanded to include 28 teams this year. Names that jump out are 2010 world champion Kevin Koe of Calgary, Kevin Park of Edmonton, defending Saskatchewan men’s champ Scott Manners of Lloydminster and Jamie Koe of Yellowknife, who has represented the Northwest Territories at numerous Briers.

“This will be good competition,” said Armitage. “A guy like (Kevin) Koe is here and we should try to get to play one of those better teams and get the game into the late ends because we weren’t really challenged a lot at (senior) Canadians.”

Indeed, the Armitage foursome was dominant at the Alberta senior championship and went 10-1 at the nationals in Abbotsford, B.C., before defeating Glenn Goss of Newfoundland 5-2 in the final.

“We’ve won an awful lot of games so it will be good for us to get some stiff competition this weekend,” said Armitage. “And it looks like a tougher field this year.”

Armitage opens against Brendan Bottcher of Edmonton at 9 a.m. Friday at the Curling Centre.

“They’re a younger team but they’re a good team. They’ll have played a lot of games already,” said the Red Deer skip.

Armitage, whose crew will enter the SACA senior men’s playdowns Dec. 14-16 at Michener Hill in an attempt to qualify for provincials and hopefully the 2013 Canadian senior championship, has modest goals this weekend.

“If we went 3-3, that would be good, but we’ll probably have to play well just to get these games to the eighth end,” he said. “It will depend on what the ice is like.

“These guys have a lot of games on us, but we’ll see how it goes. If you can get the hammer and score two right away in an eight-end game, all you need to do is win the next end and you have a real good jump.”

The men’s field also has an international flavour with the inclusion of rinks of two Chinese teams — skipped by Rui Liu and Dejia Zou — and Sven Michel of Switzerland.

• The women’s Curling Classic field is top-heavy with quality teams, as usual.

The field features a mix of national and international powers including Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg, Cheryl Bernard and Shannon Kleibrink of Calgary and Mirjam Ott of Switzerland.

Also entered are Jocelyn Peterman’s defending Canadian junior championship foursome from Red Deer and a rink skipped by Amy Nixon of Calgary that includes second Whitney Eckstrand of Red Deer and Tracy Bush of Sylvan Lake at lead.

Nixon is Kleibrink’s former third and was the fifth for Heather Nedohin’s Alberta foursome that won the Scotties title in February at the Centrium.

Overseas entries include rinks skipped by Ott, defending Classic champion Silvana Tirinzoni, Michelle Jaeggi and Manuela Siegirst, all of Switzerland, Russian champion Anna Sidorova and Ayumi Ogasawara of Japan.

The A-event qualifiers in the women’s and men’s categories will be played at 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m on Saturday at the Curling Centre, with the B and C qualifiers to follow on Sunday. The quarterfinals, semifinals and championship finals (3 p.m.) will be played on Monday at the Curling Centre.

Friday’s opening draws are as follows:

Men

Red Deer Curling Centre

9 a.m. — Tom Appelman vs. Josh Heidt; Trevor Perepolkin vs. Rui Liu; Brendan Bottcher vs. Rob Armitage; Joel Jordison vs. Justin Sluchinski; Kevin Park vs. Brock Virtue; Wade White vs. Randie Shen.

12:15 p.m. — Matthew Blandford vs. Sven Michel; Rick McKague vs. Charley Thomas; Warren Cross vs. Dejia Zou; Scott Manners vs. Sean O’Connor; Leon Moch vs. Jamie Koe; Darren Moulding vs. Steve Petryk.

Michener Hill

Nathan Connolly vs. Kevin Koe, 3:30 p.m.; Matt Willerton vs. Kevin Yablonski, 7 p.m. (following first-round byes).

Women

Red Deer Curling Centre

9 a.m. — Lindsay Makichuk vs. Jennifer Jones; Allison MacInnes vs. Tiffany Steuber; Shannon Kleibrink vs. Manuela Slegrist; Jocelyn Peterman vs. Trish Paulsen.

12:15 p.m. — Laura Crocker vs. Lisa Evamine; Renee Sonnenberg vs. Michele Jaeggi; Val Sweeting vs. Ayumi Ogasawara; Amy Nixon vs. Deanna Doig.

Michener Hill

9 a.m. — Tiffany Game vs. Chelsea Carey; Miriam Ott vs. Tanilla Doyle; Anna Sidorova vs. Crystal Webster; Marilou Richter vs. Brett Barber.

12:15 a.m. — Cheryl Bernard vs. Kelly Wood; Leslie Rogers vs. Barb Spencer; Silvana Tirizoni vs. Holly Whyte; Heather Jensen vs. Jill Thurston.

 

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