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Lacombe curler relishes chance to play at home in provincials

LACOMBE — For Colin Hodgson, playing for a provincial curling title in his hometown is not necessarily a dream come true for the simple reason that he never envisioned it occurring.

“I never thought this would happen. It’s such a treat,” the Lacombe native said Wednesday following the opening round of the Boston Pizza Alberta men’s championship at Barnett Arena.

“There’s a lot of distractions with playing here but it’s a great thing to have that extra support that you’re not really used to. It’s been excellent so far and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the week. Hopefully we can get some wins on the board and get the crowd behind us.”

Hodgson is tossing third stones for Charley Thomas and his Calgary-based foursome that includes lead Matt Ng, who lived in Lacombe as a child, and second Mike Westlund.

The Thomas foursome opened the 12-rink provincials on a negative note Wednesday morning, giving up a steal of two in the third end en route to a 6-4 loss to Matthew Blandford of Calgary.

“We didn’t come out as sharp as we wanted to,” said Hodgson, whose team was stuck with a tricky rock. “We didn’t catch on to a bad stone early and that hurt us and put us behind the eight-ball. We figured it out and used it to our advantage later in the game, but it was no one’s fault but our own and we have to come out stronger next game and play much better.”

The Thomas quartet will face Rob Schlender of Airdrie in the B-event of the triple-knockout provincials today at 2 p.m..

Hodgson, who lives in Edmonton and last winter was the manager of the Lacombe Curling Club, is new to the Thomas team this season. As the 2011 Alberta junior men’s curling champion, Hodgson, 23, faced his current teammates as junior opponents.

“We’ve known each other for years. They used to give me my lickings more than I gave them theirs,” said Hodgson, in reference to the Thomas teams that captured an Alberta junior title in 2004 and Canadian and world championships in 2006 and ‘07. “I’m a little younger than these guys and I always looked up to them when I played them.”

Losing their first game was somewhat of a blow, but Hodgson and his teammates are used to pulling out victories when the heat is on.

“We never take the easy road in any way. We’re fine with that as long as we’re there at the end of the week,” said the third, whose squad qualified for the provincials out of the C event of the southern Alberta playdowns.

With the likes of Kevin Martin, Kevin Koe and Jamie King — with former world champions Blake MacDonald and Scott Pfeifer on board — in the provincial men’s field, Hodgson knows his team is looking at a steep ascent.

“The field is littered with world and Olympic champions on different teams,” said Hodgson, who played three seasons of senior men’s baseball with the Red Deer Riggers. “It’s never an easy time coming out of Alberta.

“Winning this would be great. The Alberta men’s provincials is definitely one of the pinnacles of curling.”

In Tuesday’s other morning draws, Schlender stole two points in an extra end to defeat Greg Pasichnuk of Grande Prairie 7-5, Mark Johnson of Edmonton was a 7-2 winner over Lloyd Hill of Calgary and Wade White prevailed 10-4 over Ted Appelman in an all-Edmonton contest.

Defending champion Kevin Martin of Edmonton scored one in the 10th end to get past Blandford 5-4 in the evening draw, while Brendan Bottcher of Edmonton downed Schlender 6-2, Jamie King of Edmonton emerged with a 6-5 win over Johnson and White doubled former world champion Kevin Koe of Calgary 12-6.

The provincial championship resumed at 9:30 a.m. today and concludes with Sunday’s 2 p.m. final. The winner will represent Alberta in the Tim Horton’s Brier March 1-9 at Kamloops.



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