Kevin Koe has been a model of consistency this season.
He and his Calgary-based rink of third Pat Simmons, second Carter Rycroft and lead Nolan Thiessen have reached either the finals or semifinals in each of the three World Curling Tour events they have entered this year.
Koe, a former world champion (2010, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy), put it all together for his first cashspiel win Monday at the $26,000 Prestige Hotels Curling Classic at the Vernon Curling Club.
The Alberta foursome brushed back reigning U.S. men’s champion Brady Clark 6-5 in the championship game to pocket $7,500.
The Vernon spiel has been a cash cow for the 38-year-old Koe, a Yellowknife native who collected back-to-back titles in 2009 and ‘10.
“We always like coming out here,” said Koe, who blanked the seventh end, and then ran Clark out of rocks in eight.
“You know you’re going to get good ice and it’s always been one of our favourite spiels.”
With the Olympic trials for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia set for early December, Koe is pleased with his rink’s steady play. They won five straight games to claim the Prestige crown, including a 5-4 semifinal win over China’s Rui Liu.
“Everything this year is gearing up towards the trials and part of that is going to spiels where there’s good ice because that’s what it’ll be like (in Winnipeg).”
Clark and Koe began the final trading deuces, with Koe taking a 4-2 lead into the fourth end. The rinks swapped singles in four and five before Clark made a recorded a double for two in six.
U.S. lead Darren Lehto set up a couple of tricky guards, just over the hog line, to open the eighth end. Rycroft made a solid double takeout to pave the way for a Koe draw for the win.
After a shaky 2-2 start, Clark’s Lynwood, Wash. crew (Sean Beighton, Phil Tilker and Darren Lehto) won four straight to reach the final and collect $5,500. They doubled Vernon’s TJ Perepolkin 8-4 in Monday morning quarterfinal play, and then bounced another Vernon rink skipped by John (Johnny Mo) Morris 9-8 in the semis.
“We just started making shots within tolerance,” said Clark, a senior business analyst with Liberty Mutual. “Instead of open misses, we’d make a half shot or 3/4 shots.
“We picked up on the weight a lot better and just started rolling. You get a few breaks here and there and all of a sudden you’re scoring points.”
Clark is entered in the U.S. men’s trials, but a win there doesn’t guarantee and Olympic berth. The winner must battle for one of two spots in an open international trials event.
“It’s a big year and we’re just making sure we’re doing everything possible to be as prepared as we can,” said Clark. “We’re just trying to make sure we’re getting all the best competition here in Canada.”
Perepolkin (Deane Horning, Tyler Orme and Chris Anderson) went 4-1 to secure a playoff berth and $3,250 in his rink’s season opener. Semifinalists earned $4,250.
“It’s important for us to represent our club in an event like this, even if you haven’t played many games yet,” said Perepolkin, whose 16-month-old daughter, Hana, is already a regular fixture at the Vernon club.
“We were a little disappointed with our performance against this Clark team, but they were on fire. We ran into a hot team and didn’t bring our A-game.”