There is no stopping the Fantastic Four in Alberta senior men’s curling from making history.
The Wade White rink – with Dan Holowaychuk of St. Albert the team’s cornerstone at second, Barry Chwedoruk is the third and George White at lead — continued their legacy of greatness with a record fourth consecutive provincial championship in the 50-plus division.
“We might be making it into the hall of fame with that,” said Holowaychuk, a St. Albert Curling Club wall of fame inductee in 2014.
“I don’t know that anybody has done four as a senior,” Holowaychuk added. “When we started I wasn’t even sure how many times we would be going to provincials. Maybe we’ll try for a five-peat now that we’ve got the four. We’ll keep going until somebody knocks us out of there.”
The 2017 Canadian champions and last year’s bronze medallists return to nationals for another shot at winning gold at worlds after going 7-1 at provincials in Lacombe and Sunday’s final was 8-5 against Scott Egger of Calgary.
“It was a lot of fun going to worlds (in 2018 at Oestersund, Sweden) and winning worlds and I’m sure we would all want to have that feeling again so we’ll bear down a little bit and get ready for Canadians, maybe take a week or two off and let the weary old bones catch up to the rest of us,” Holowaychuk said.
Nationals start March 17 at Portage la Prairie, Man., and the winner qualifies for worlds in 2021.
It’s the fifth nationals for the Heinz 57 age-wise duo of White the skip and Holowaychuk since 2013 as bronze medallists with third Doug McLennan of St. Albert and lead George Parsons as Team Alberta.
The current foursome was formed when Wade’s brother, George, was old enough for seniors and then Chwedoruk, a curling legend in Lac La Biche, was brought on board.
“As soon as we got Barry it seems to be the glue,” Holowaychuk said of Chwedoruk’s debut with the 2016 provincial finalists. “We have Gary Greening, who plays out of St. Albert, spare for us. We play with him in the super league (at Saville Centre) and some spiels that Barry can’t make it, but the playdowns the last four years for the four of us have been pretty good.”
The six-day nationals features 14 teams in two pools to determine the eight qualifiers for the championship round.
“Our strategy, even into provincials, is make the playoffs first, focus on doing what you’ve got to do to get into playoffs, and then you kind of readjust a little bit,” said Holowaychuk of the game plan for nationals after finishing 8-4 last year at Chilliwack Curling Club, 6-4 in 2018 at Stratford (Ont.) Rotary Complex and 9-3 in 2017 at Willie O’Ree Place at Fredericton, N.B.
“Hopefully the ice is conducive to that type of play we like and Portage I hear has got some pretty decent ice and it will be in a club (instead of an arena),” Holowaychuk said. “The ice in Lacombe was really good with lots of curl. Darren Moulding (third for the Alberta men’s champion Brendan Bottcher rink) was the ice maker there and when he made the ice in Coaldale (for the 2018 provincials) it was probably some of the best club ice that we’ve played on and we really like ice that has some curl.”
The competition is always keen at senior nationals with players with Brier experience like the last two winners, Bruce Korte of Saskatchewan and Bryan Cochrane of Russell, Ont.
In last year’s final, Korte’s rink from Saskatoon won 8-4 against Cochrane, the 2019 world senior champion.
“There’s some quality players there every year,” Holowaychuk said. “We keep getting one year older and they keep bringing in newer and newer young guys.”
The senior champions were smooth and steady at provincials despite scaling back their World Curling Tour and bonspiel commitments.
“We probably played the least amount this year than we have over some previous years, but it still helped us stay sharp.” Holowaychuk said of the winners of the 3 Son's Integra Tire Auto Centre bonspiel in November at St. Albert.
The eight-team draw was missing the skips of the second-place teams in 2017 and 2018, Kurt Balderson of Grande Prairie, and 2019, Mark Johnson of Edmonton, as well as Terry Meek, a perennial contender from Calgary.
“A lot of the regular guys weren’t in the field like they usually are for whatever reason,” Holowaychuk said. “You still go hard and hope for the best.”
In the round robin, the reigning champions rattled off six wins, including the 7-4 decision in seven ends against Egger (6-3), before falling 9-5 to Jeff Ginter (5-3) of Dawson Creek in the last game before the playoffs and a berth in the final secured.
A four-ender in four made it 5-2 against Egger in the first game and the rematch started off with White’s three-ender with hammer in the opening end. Deuces in five and seven sealed the deal before Egger managed one in the eighth and last end.
“It’s a different feeling when you get the lead like that than when you maybe steal a game from them for the win or drawing to the butting for the win,” Holowaychuk said. “It’s still nerve-wracking because with the five rock rule there is always rocks in play and things can happen.”
Holowaychyuk described the on-ice celebration as subdued.
“There definitely weren’t brooms flying in the air after we won. Maybe we’re just older and calmer now, but it’s still a good feeling because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen this year,” said the alternate for the Ferbey Four, the five-time Alberta men’s champions, four-time Brier winners and three-time world gold medallists as the Alberta Curling Federation’s Team of the Century.