Morning Star Staff
Rolling on the Rock has propelled Vernon’s Jim Cotter back into curling’s top echelon.
Cotter and his rink of third Ryan Kuhn, second Tyrel Griffith and lead Rick Sawatsky defeated Mark Kean of Stoney Creek, Ont. 5-3 in Sunday’s final of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling Tour Challenge Tier 2 event in Paradise, N.L.
The victory was worth $9,200 for the reigning B.C. men’s champions, lifted them to No. 17 in the world rankings and earned them an all-expenses trip to the Grand Slam event. The Masters, Oct. 27-Nov. 1, in Truro, N.S.
“We played ourselves out of the Slam so to get back in is great,” Cotter told The Morning Star. “We knew we had to have a good start here. You want to be playing the best teams in the world.”
Team Cotter went 7-0 through the Tier 2 division.
In Sunday’s final, Cotter took one in the first and stole points in two and three to jump ahead 3-0.
Kean settled for one in four and swiped a point in five. Cotter added another single in five. Kean made a double for one but gave up the hammer for eight and Cotter eliminated two of Kean’s stone with his last rock to seal the victory.
“It was definitely a little different today,” said Cotter to Sportsnet TV reporter Joan McCusker after the victory.
“It took both teams about halfway through the game to catch on to the ice and that’s when both teams started making a lot of shots.
“It was a good game. It’s like we’ve done so far this year, grinding out the wins. I’m super proud of the guys.”
The Vernon rink advanced to the final Saturday night with a 9-2, five-end romp over Kyle Smith of Perth, Scotland.
Cotter scored a deuce to open the game, then put the match away by picking up three in the third and four in the fifth end.
Kevin Koe of Calgary won the Tier 1 division, edging hometown favourite Brad Gushue 4-3 in the final.
Women’s division winners were Silvana Tirinzoni of Switzerland (Tier 1), who beat Ottawa’s Rachel Homan, and Winnipeg’s Kerri Einarson capped an undefeated run through Tier 2, beating Regina’s Chantelle Eberle.
Sunday’s result capped the end of a 12-day run out east that began in Oakville, Ont. for the Cotter rink.
They opened their 2015-16 season at the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard, where they went 5-1, reaching the semifinal and winning $3,000.
After going 4-0 in the preliminary round, which included a 6-5 win over reigning world men’s champion Niklas Edin of Sweden, Cotter faced old foe Koe of Calgary in the quarterfinal.
Cotter, who lost the 2014 Brier final to Koe in his hometown of Kamloops, scored a 7-4 decision to advance to the final and a match against Reid Carruthers of Winnipeg.
Carruthers defeated Cotter 5-4 (Gushue beat Carruthers in the Tankard final).
“We had some good chats over the summer and came up with a pretty good game plan for the season,” said Cotter. “So far we’ve stuck with the plan. The guys have been really good. It’s been a solid effort all-around.”
After the win over Edin, the Cotter rink went to a Toronto Blue Jays game at the Rogers Centre where Cotter and Griffith were in line to catch a foul ball in the stands.
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“If it hadn’t hit the gut of a guy a couple of rows in front of us, Ty and I were all over it,” chuckled Cotter. “The ball ended up being caught by Rachel Homan’s parents.”
In Newfoundland, the Vernon squad enjoyed a boat tour, soaking in the beauty of the easternmost province.
“It was wicked,” said Cotter, whose rink gets sponsorship and support from Sunco, Dennis Bingham and Goldline Curling Supplies. “We had a lot of fun.”
The Vernon team will be among the favourites on home ice at the 2015 Prestige Hotels and Resorts Curling Classic. The men’s draws run Oct. 2 to 5 while the women’s event is slated for Oct. 1 to 5.
Cotter will also compete at the Crown of Curling event in Kamloops Oct. 16 to 19.