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Young guns come out on top at Red Deer Classic


Kevin Koe, the 2010 world men’s curling champion, may be wishing he’s seen the last of Brendan Bottcher.

For the second time in a span of a month, Koe’s Calgary foursome came up short against Bottcher and his Edmonton crew, falling 6-3 in the men’s final of the Red Deer Classic on Monday at the newly-renovated Red Deer Curling Centre.

“The first time we played him was in Vancouver (the Westcoast Classic in New Westminster Oct. 5-8) and we managed to pull out that win as well,” said Bottcher, whose team pocketed a cheque for $9,000. “So I guess we’re two and zero against him.

“Kevin has come out a bit flat against us and we’ve definitely taken advantage of that. But the guys have also played great in front of me which has made it easier.”

Chelsea Carey’s team downed the Jennifer Jones foursome — skipped by Cathy King of Edmonton — 7-3 in an all-Winnipeg women’s final.

A world champion himself, Bottcher has no reason to be intimidated by the likes of Koe, who twice has represented Alberta in the Brier and currently leads the World Curling Tour with earnings of $65,200, which includes the $6,000 his team earned on Monday.

Bottcher, 20, captured the world junior men’s title in Sweden last spring and he now curls with the same lineup that won the 2012 Canadian university championship. Bottcher, a chemical engineering student, third Micky Lizmore, second Bradley Thiessen and lead Karrick Martin all attend the University of Alberta.

“We’ve had success at other levels, so that helps while playing on the Tour,” said Bottcher, who won his first of two Alberta junior men’s titles in 2010. “I actually look forward to playing these games and these teams. That’s why we’re out here — to play championship teams. If one day you’re going to be one of the better teams then you have to learn how to beat them along the way.”

The Bottcher foursome is one of the youngest on the Tour and that has its drawbacks, the skip suggested.

“We’re definitely the youngest team here this week. It helps and it hurts,” he said. “There are some experience things that you just can’t pick up on because you haven’t played a lot of years. But we have a great program and a great system in front of us at the U of A and that sorts of guides us through all of that.”

The eventual 2012 Red Deer Classic champs qualified out of the B event and finished with an 8-1 record.

“We started off actually a little slow, but I felt that we got a bit stronger as we went along and then in the playoffs we just kept the momentum going,” said Bottcher.

The Classic was the fifth World Tour event of the season for the Edmonton team, which came in with total earnings of $6,500.

“It just all came together for us this week, especially on this final day when we needed to be at our best,” said Bottcher.

The victorious skip had words of praise for the newly-revamped Curling Centre, which now boasts 12 sheets of ice among other amenities.

“I curled in junior ‘spiels here over the years when it was an eight-sheeter,” said Bottcher. “This is a big improvement. It looks great.”

Carey, just minutes after signing for her $9,500 Red Deer Classic women’s championship cheque, also enjoyed her surroundings over the course of four days.

“They’ve done a fantastic job here, the club looks amazing,” said the Winnipeg skip, who has attended five consecutive Red Deer WCT events. “Tonight’s sheet was a little tricky but in general the ice has been very good. They’ve done a great job of pulling it all together for this ‘spiel, considering they worked right down to the wire to finish the ice and the building.”

Carey’s crew of third Kristy McDonald, second Kristen Foster and lead Lindsay Titheridge entered the Classic with earnings of $1,500.

“It’s been a battle for us this season, so it was nice to finally string together some wins,” said Carey, who qualified out of the A event. “We haven’t played badly this year but we hadn’t had any results until now.”

The skip said everything simply fell into place for her team during the Classic.

“We got some breaks when we needed them, I’m not going to deny that,” said Carey. “It sounds like a cliche´, but you have to just play one rock at a time. It’s the only way and when you’re truly in that mode you can feel it. It’s hard to force yourself to get there. We hadn’t done a great job of approaching games like that this year and today we did.

“Just one shot at a time . . . that’s how you win games.”

King was skipping the Jones rink — which won $6,500 as runner-up — in the absence of the four-time Canadian and 2008 world championship skip. Jennifer Jones is currently on maternity leave and is scheduled to give birth in December.

“We get along really well with that team. We love playing against them and it’s always nice to beat one of the best teams in the world,” said Carey.

Carey advanced to the championship match with a 5-4 semifinal win over Mirjam Ott of Switzerland earlier in the day, while the Jones foursome punched their ticket with a 7-1 semifinal thrashing of Manuela Siegrist of Switzerland.

In quarter-final action Monday morning, the Jones quartet dumped Val Sweeting of Edmonton 7-1, Siegrist edged defending Classic champion and fellow Swiss skip Silvana Tirinzoni, Carey was a 6-3 winner over Calgary’s Cheryl Bernard and Ott slipped past Laura Crocker of Edmonton 6-5.

In the men’s semifinals, Koe beat Matthew Blandford of Calgary 8-3 and Bottcher downed Wade White of Edmonton 7-1.

Rob Armitage of Red Deer was a 4-1 quarter-final loser to Koe, while Blandford bombed Matt Willerton of Edmonton 10-1, White beat Kevin Park of Edmonton 5-3 and Bottcher was a 5-2 winner over Tom Appelman of Edmonton.

Each of the losing men’s quarter-finalists earned a cheque for $2,500, while the losing semifinalists picked up $3,500 and the ninth- to 12-place teams each won $500.

On the women’s side, the losing quarter-finalists earned $2,500, the teams eliminated in the semifinals pocketed $4,000 and the rinks finishing ninth to 12th took home $500.

 
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