The field is set and the Trail Curling Association has hurried hard to prepare for the 16 teams descending on the Silver City Monday for the B.C. Senior Curling championship.
For the second straight year, the senior women’s Zone 1-2 Kootenay region is represented by the Teresa Hiram rink out of Christina Lake, with Rhonda Lee Bedard as third, Trail’s Rose Beauchamp second, and Cindy Pettapiece as lead.
“I think we’re as ready as we can be right now,” said Bedard. “We’ve curled all year in the Super League which is going to help.”
Hiram won the playdowns in Cranbrook in convincing fashion last month, but given the lofty credentials of visiting rinks, the team is keeping their expectations for the provincials in check.
“Because we were there last year, I’d like to improve our record,” said Bedard. “We’d like to make playoffs, that is our ultimate goal, but we’ll take one game at a time and hope for the best.”
The team went 2-5 in the 2012 seniors, a respectable record considering they again will be facing the likes of four-time B.C. champion and former Trail resident Kathy Smiley, who returns with her Royal City rink out of Richmond.
Among the women’s favourites is last year’s winning skip Penny Shantz and third Debbie Jones-Walker, who enter this year’s championship skipping two separate teams with Shantz representing the Salmon Arm Curling Club and Jones-Walker the Nanaimo club.
“They are all brand new (teams), but some of them have played together before,” said Beauchamp, a veteran of seven B.C. championships. “But they (Shantz) have a pretty strong team.”
Jones-Walker’s resume is also loaded. The Canadian Curling Hall of Fame inductee has a B.C. women’s championship with the Linda Moore rink, a Scotties Canadian women’s championships, a World Championship, and an Olympic gold medal from Calgary, which Shantz also played on.
In addition, last year’s finalist and 2003 champion Karen Lepine from Langley will be a tough opponent. Lepine is a three-time winner of the B.C. mixed curling title with husband Craig, who is also a former B.C. men’s champion, and the coastal playdown A event qualifier for the senior men’s side.
Which is a good indication of what Kootenay zone qualifiers Castlegar’s Miron Nichol rink and Cranbrook’s Tom Shypitka rinks are up against.
Nichol skips a team comprised of Trail’s Rick Brown as third, second Terry Kryzcka, and lead Rob Babiarz.
“This is our third trip to the provincials, and you see a lot of the same faces and guys who have been in competitive men’s curling for a long time,” said Nichol. “Our expectation is that we’ll get to the nationals, but we’ve had a few challenges this year.”
Nichol’s long-time third Garry Beaudry suffered a leg injury mid-way through the season, however, Brown has filled in admirably helping the team claim a spot in the seniors last month, and narrowly missing qualifying for the men’s provincial championship.
The Shypitka rink should also be competitive, with Trail curler Don Freschi fresh off the men’s B.C. championship.
Freschi will join the Cranbrook rink as second, with Nelson’s Fred Thomson as third, and Fruitvale curler Bill King as lead.
Both Thomson and Freschi were part of Deane Horning’s B.C. men’s championship team in 2005, while Thomson has won the B.C. mixed title twice, and Shypitka was third for the 2010 men’s provincial championship team skipped by Jeff Richard from Kelowna.
The first two draws couldn’t get much tougher, however, in its first match at noon on Tuesday, Nichol faces the Victoria rink skipped by Wes Craig, the 2010 senior men’s champion, then plays Royal City’s Rick Pughe rink, the 2008 Master’s champion, at 7 p.m.
Shypitka takes to the hack against Lepine at noon, and against Steffin from Royal City at 7 p.m.
Home ice should be an advantage for Super League veterans Nichol and Hiram, but curling officials are scraping and burning the ice, and sanding the bottom of the rocks to make them curl more.
“That was our big goal to be here, and play on home ice, but you know what, they’re going to scrape the ice and sand the rocks and we won’t have access to the ice until Monday,” said Beauchamp, which is, as it should be – the same for all the visiting teams.
The Hiram rink opens against the Jones-Walker rink at noon on Tuesday, and play the Smiley foursome at 7 p.m.
The winners will advance to the Canadian Senior Men’s and Women’s Championship in Summerside, PEI Mar. 16-24.