Kohlenberg “living the big dream” with Team Nunavut at the Tim Hortons Brier

KINGSTON, Ont. — New to the territory, longtime curler Dale Kohlenberg walked into the Iqaluit Curling Club last fall and said he’d like to join a league and play on a competitive curling team.

Four months later he’s representing Nunavut at the Tim Hortons Brier.

“Never give up on your dreams if you’re still pumping blood and breathing air,” said Kohlenberg, who turns 65 next month.

It’s also the Brier main draw debut for Nunavut skip Jake Higgs, lead Ed MacDonald and second Christian Smitheram. They were 0-4 after dropping 7-4 decisions Monday to Quebec’s Alek Bedard and Nova Scotia’s Jamie Murphy.

Kohlenberg, who works for the federal Department of Justice, moved to the territory to fill in for a lawyer on paternity leave.

MacDonald noticed him practising shots one day at the club. He introduced himself and asked if Kohlenberg would be interested in joining his team since there was a vacancy due to illness.

Given his age, Kohlenberg thought he might be a better fit on a seniors or masters team. MacDonald noted that coming on board would give him a 33 per cent chance of getting to the Brier.

“I asked, ‘Well, how do you arrange for that?”’ Kohlenberg said. “He said, ‘There’s only two other teams in the (territorial) competition, so we’ll be the third one.”’

Kohlenberg decided to give it a go.

“So the (playdowns) for the Brier starts on a Friday evening,” he said. “We have our first practice Friday afternoon and I meet the other two guys on the team I’m playing with. And I curl with Ed for the first time and we happen to go through undefeated and end of story.

“Here I am living the big dream.”

Higgs, the team import from Strathroy, Ont., went 3-0 in the playdowns against Dave St. Louis and Wade Kingdon.

Nunavut made its debut at the national men’s curling championship in 2016 in the qualification event. The territory, which is still looking for its first Brier victory, was included in the main draw when the event moved to a 16-team format in 2018.

Kohlenberg, a native of Moose Jaw, Sask., has curled for over a half-century. He played in a few provincial qualifiers over the years and won bronze with Saskatchewan skip Jim Wilson at the 2017 Canadian masters championship.

“I’m scheduled to have my (work) assignment end at the end of March,” Kohlenberg said. “I like curling up (in Iqaluit). I like curling anywhere but I guess it just worked out well for me.

“The curling gods were on my side.”

Team Wild Card’s Mike McEwen led Pool A at 4-0 after defeating Jamie Koe of the Northwest Territories 6-2 in the morning and topping British Columbia’s Steve Laycock 10-5 in the afternoon.

Murphy dumped Bryan Cochrane 11-2 but the Prince Edward Island skip rebounded with a 7-4 victory over Quebec.

Saskatchewan’s Matt Dunstone delivered a highlight-reel runback triple takeout to score four in the 10th end for a 9-8 victory over Laycock. Dunstone made it a two-win day with a 6-2 victory over Koe.

Alberta’s Brendan Bottcher, who leads Pool B at 4-0, edged Manitoba’s Jason Gunnlaugson 7-6 in evening play at the Leon’s Centre. Also, Brad Gushue of N.L., beat Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs 7-6, New Brunswick’s James Grattan downed Ontario’s John Epping 6-4 and Team Canada’s Kevin Koe got by Yukon’s Thomas Scoffin 10-2.

The preliminary round continues through Wednesday night. The top four teams from each pool will advance to the championship round.

The four-team Page Playoffs begin Saturday and the final is set for Sunday.

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