The Vernon rink of Jim Cotter (from left)

The Vernon rink of Jim Cotter (from left)

Vernon rink Brier-bound

Olympic gold medallist and former world champion Kevin Martin has earned an official invitation. So have one-time world winners and fellow legends Glen Howard and Jeff Stoughton.

Olympic gold medallist and former world champion Kevin Martin has earned an official invitation. So have one-time world winners and fellow legends Glen Howard and Jeff Stoughton.

The party goes March 5-13 in London, Ont. catered by Tim Hortons, and Vernon’s Jim Cotter will be sharing the ice and appies with all the heavyweights in his first Brier as a skip.

Cotter, 36, iced unheralded Neil Dangerfield of Victoria 6-4 Sunday night to claim the 2011 Canadian Direct Insurance B.C. Men’s Curling Championships at his home club in Vernon.

It was almost a carbon-copy of the 2010 provincials in Richmond when Cotter, then throwing fourth stones for skip Bob Ursel, went 9-0 in the round-robin and then lost one playoff game before rebounding in the final.

“We’re just absolutely thrilled, obviously, the guys played fabulous all week and we really brought it to the table here tonight” said an emotional Cotter, moments after doing a Shaw Cable TV interview and hugging a close female friend on the ice. “Today and the last couple of games, we picked up our game here.

“It’s exciting. Any time you get to go to the Brier, it’s exciting. We’re extremely excited for Ken (super sub Maskiewich). When we picked him up, the three of us said that was one of our goals.

Maskiewich, one of several elite curlers taking a turn as a replacement player after Ursel seriously injured his knee in the fall, fit in nicely and made some clutch shots in the provincial marathon.

The shooting percentages were pretty much reversed from Friday night’s 1-2 Page format game when Dangerfield clipped Cotter 5-4.

“We’re not much percentage guys,” said Cotter, a computer programmer. “We’re just happy to go out and make our shots and Kenny played great in both games and the playoffs. We’re definitely looking forward to London.”

The final turned for Cotter – with a front end of Rick Sawatsky and Kevin Folk – in the seventh end with Dangerfield trailing 4-3 but holding the hammer after blanking the sixth.

Cotter, sitting shot rock on the top of the four-foot but with three Dangerfield rocks in the house, put up a guard with his final stone. Dangerfield’s only option was to try a risky angle raise-takeout. His attempt was inside, allowing Cotter to swipe one as he did in the fifth as well.

Dangerfield, 41, was second in the round-robin at 7-2. After losing to Dangerfield – backed by third Denis Sutton, second Darren Boden and lead Glen Allen – Cotter pulled out an 8-4 semifinal win over Kelowna’s Jeff Richard. Former Vernonites Tyler Orme and Chris Anderson work the front end for Richard, who was also 7-2 in preliminary play.

Richard advanced to the semifinal by defeating Brent Yamada of Kamloops 8-4.

“It was nearly the same as last year at first, losing that 1-2 game but we came out both games and played really solid,” said Folk. “Hats off to the guys, Kenny for coming in and joining us this year; he played excellent. And what can you say about Cotter? He’s the man.”

Folk was also overjoyed for Maskiewich, who at 44, had unsuccessfully missed on nine tries to reach the Brier.

“We actually beat Ken (part of Greg McAulay’s foursome) in an extra end in ‘08 to go to the Brier in Winnipeg,” said Folk. “So this is his first purple heart and I couldn’t be happier for him.”

Maskiewich, who lives in New Westminster, pretty much won the lottery when he got the call from Cotter.

“It’s been a whirlwind last four months, not playing this year, retiring, and then having these three great guys asking me to play, it’s unbelievable,” said Maskiewich. “I throw rocks and get out of their way. Jimmy’s a great player, they’re all great players. It’s a great time.”

Maskiewich said he knew there was a good chance at glory when he joined Cotter’s rink.

“I know these guys are gonna win. They’re winners. They’re one of the top teams in the world really so I just had to throw my shots and let Jimmy and the boys do their thing and ride their coattails a bit. It’s been fantastic.”

Dangerfield, who has heard all the respect jokes, definitely earned some in Vernon. His rink has been together four years but the average fan knew little about their bios.

“When it settles in later, I think we’ll be pretty proud of what we’ve done here, but obviously at the moment it’s a little tough to swallow,” said Dangerfield, a fisheries lab technician.

“But, we had a great ride. We won six in a row there at the end and got ourselves in this position. You can’t win it if you’re not in it. It came down to probably half an inch on two rocks and that’s the way it goes. It is curling. Those guys are a fantastic team and I know they’re going to do us proud at the Brier.”