For an unprecedented fifth year in a row, Hootie and the Old Fish celebrated another men’s playoff championship at the St. Albert Curling Club.
In Sunday’s finals the Jamie King rink beat Dale Briske 8-6 in eight ends and 7-1 in four ends to wrap up the double-knockout draw.
“We’re very happy. It’s not the Brier but it’s the best level that we can play at so we’re very excited to win it again,” Craig King said of the line-up of Old Fishes, featuring the cagey front-end duo of Brian Pfeifer and Ralph Killips and super sub Elson Keown.
King called the shots in the playoffs as his sharp-shooting son Jamie, a.k.a. Hootie, threw skip’s rocks while working on his sweeping technique as the third rocker in preparation for the upcoming Brier as the fifth man for the Kevin Koe rink.
“We’re lucky that we’ve got Jamie still kicking around with us. We know we have an advantage with him,” Craig said.
The shot of the year was delivered by Jamie in the eighth and last end of the first game. Trailing by one with the hammer, and Briske lying two behind some smartly positioned guards, the two time provincial men’s finalist executed a brilliant angle raise double takeout that stuck like glue. The riveting shot drew a standing ovation from the fans in the Hec Gervais Lounge.
“I just closed my eyes and threw it and it worked out in the end,” Jamie said with a smile. “It was really the only way for us to score more than a point. We could’ve thrown the in-turn draw to the four-foot for one, but then you don’t have last rock in the extra end and that’s usually pretty tough to steal. We thought if we have a chance for the win we might as well throw it. Randy Ferbey once told me if you ever have a chance for the win in the last end, you play it and that’s what we did.”
After a deuce by the King rink in six to lead 5-3, Briske replied with three in seven to lead by one, setting the stage for a dramatic conclusion as Jamie pulled victory from the jaws of defeat.
“A big shot like that is always a little tough to recover from,” Craig said.
After a 30-minute break, the teams trudged back onto the ice for the deciding game as the reigning champs had to beat Briske twice after losing to the Tuesday night league team in the A final. After the first end was blanked, King loaded up the house with rocks and, with last shot, made a hit and stick to count five.
“It’s a case sometimes where you get the rocks around the rings and in the end if you make one real good shot you can pull it off, sort of like Kevin Martin,” Craig said.
A timeout was called part way through the end as the curlers gathered together to watch highlights of the overtime winner by Sidney Crosby in the Canada versus United States gold medal game at the Olympics.
In the third a rattled-looking Briske struggled with his shots and, despite the possibility of a multi-point end, he counted only one.
After a deuce by King in the next end the teams shook hands.
“With us getting five like that it kind of deflated them and they decided to pack it in a little early,” Craig said.
After only two losses and one tie in league play, the Thursday night league team finished the 12-team playoffs with six wins and one loss.
“We’ve got a good five-man team. Everybody had a chance to play quite a bit this year so it feels real good to win it again, especially since it’s the last league playoffs in the curling rink [before the renovations to the front of the building start in a couple of weeks],” Craig said.
“It was a lot harder this year for us. We’ve played good teams in the past, too, and this year we had good competition all year, especially from the Bellamy boys who beat us pretty good [in league play]. It makes you realize you’re going to have to play well or else. Even against these guys we knew we had to play well to beat them because they’ve played in men’s for a long time and they can still really curl.”
In their 18th year as the longest running men’s rink at the club, King and his men will represent St. Albert at the 47th annual Tournament of Champions next month at Jasper Place. Their sixth trip to the city playoff tournament as club champions ended with an extra-end loss to Jamie Fletcher of the Saville Sports Centre in the 2009 final.
Their 2006 triumph at cities marked the first Tournament of Champions title by a St. Albert rink since Dan Holowaychuk in 1989.
“As we get a little older, each one is special and for myself to have the chance to play with my son Jamie is especially special,” Craig said.
Up next for one of the most decorated St. Albert rinks in the history is the Dominion northern club playdowns, March 26 to 28 in Sherwood Park. Up for grabs are three spots at provincials en route to nationals.
“It’s going to be exciting for us old guys,” Craig said of the team that boasts of two grandfathers, with the 36-year-old Jamie as the youngest curler.