Two games, two losses.
To the casual observer, it appeared that Rob Armitage and his supporting cast of third Shaun Meachem, second Trevor Sparks and lead Doug Stambaugh were pretty much done after opening the triple-knockout Red Deer Curling Classic with a pair of setbacks.
Armitage and his mates weren’t buying it, and promptly rattled off five consecutive wins en route to Monday’s men’s championship final at the Red Deer Curling Centre, where the impressive run ended with an 8-3 loss to former world champion Randy Ferbey of Edmonton.
Reigning Canadian champion Jennifer Jones captured the women’s title with an 8-7 extra-end win over Shannon Kleibrink of Calgary.
“We weren’t playing badly the first two games and I think that’s the reason why nobody panicked,” said Red Deer skip Armitage.
“We realized that everyone was throwing well enough to win a game. I was making a fair number of shots, but we had a little bad luck and we weren’t quite sharp because we hadn’t played many games this year.”
Indeed, Armitage and Sparks each had four games under their belts coming into the Classic, while Stambaugh had curled only three games and Meachem just two.
But they looked like a well-conditioned team after opening with respective 9-6 and 9-3 losses to Warren Hassell of Lloydminster and Jamie King of Edmonton.
The Red Deer crew dropped to the C event and ignited their rally with a 9-0 demolition of Airdrie’s Don Delair, then followed with a 6-5 win over Red Deer clubmate Lowell Peterman and a 7-4 victory over Dean Ross of Calgary in a C qualifier, all on Sunday.
With a paycheque already guaranteed, Armitage edged champion Ralph Stockli 4-3 in a Monday morning quarter-final and then doubled Steve Petryk of Calgary 10-5 in six ends to earn a date with Ferbey
“We played the Swiss national team this morning and they played well, but by then our game was better,” said Armitage.
“We had enough games in that we were feeling better about ourselves.
“We were feeling that we could win.”
The scheduled eight-end final lasted only six ends, mostly due to the four points Ferbey stole in the fourth end when Armitage came up well short while attempting a draw to the four-foot.
“We had a little bad luck there, we hit a bit of a flat spot on the one draw,” said Armitage.
“We were having a good game with Randy (to that point). They’re a good curling team, they showed they were the class of this field.”
The Armitage foursome, slated to unite again in January for the zone 2 playdowns, earned $5,500 as runner-up in the World Curling Tour event.
Ferbey and teammates Dave Nedohin, Scott Pfeifer and Marcel Rocque pocketed $8,500.
The Ferbey foursome lost just once during the weekend, falling 8-3 to Brad Heidt of Kerrobert, Sask., in a Saturday night A-event qualifier.
“That was an eye-opening experience for us.
“We sort of figured we were going to win that game, but there are so many tough teams here that we told ourselves to do what we do best and focus a little more,” said Ferbey, who posted a pair of shutouts — 6-0 over Claudio Pescia of Switzerland and 10-0 over Tyrel Griffith of Kelowna — earlier Monday.
“The last five games we played we were really solid.”
The timing was perfect for the Ferbey squad, which finally took top honours in a WCT event this fall with the Olympic trials just around the corner (Dec. 6-13 at Edmonton Rexall Place).
“This is good for our confidence,” said the skip. “We still have a few things to work on but overall this is the best the team has played this year.”
The losing men’s semifinalists each picked up $3,500 and the fifth- to eighth-place teams each earned $2,500.
In a women’s final that started 30 minutes after the men’s contest, Jones battled back from a 7-4 deficit after six ends to score a deuce in the seventh and steal a point in the eighth to force an extra frame. Kleibrink’s second, Bronwen Webster, nicked a Jones rock into the house for shot while attempting to kill a front stone in the ninth end and the counter stood as the winning point.
“Both teams kind of got tricked by the ice a little tonight. It wasn’t the most fun game to play but it was nice to come out on top,” said Jones, who split the winner’s pot of $9,000 with Winnipeg teammates Cathy Overton, Jill Officer and Dawn Askin.
Jones is also headed to the Olympic trials next month, but insisted her team isn’t looking too far ahead.
“That’s still four weeks away. We’re just trying to come out for every (WCT) event and improve week by week,” said the skip, who also captured the 2007 Red Deer Classic title. “We didn’t play that well last weekend so we’re pretty happy with how we played here.”
Kleibrink’s crew earned $6,000, while the losing semifinalists were each $4,000 richer and the fifth- to eighth-place teams took home $2,500.
In an added event this season, a pair of $1,000 skins games featured the A qualifiers in each division. Jones beat Marla Mallett of Vancouver by a $825-$175 count in the women’s contest and Stockli was a $875-$125 winner over Heidt in the men’s game.