Morning Star Staff
With two preliminary games to go, John Morris’ Vernon-Kelowna rink was in the hunt for a semifinals berth at the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings men’s curling playdowns Thursday in Winnipeg.
Morris, backed by Jim Cotter (skip’s stones), Ty Griffith and Rick Sawatsky, held third place in the eight-team spiel at 3-2 after falling 8-6 to Sault Ste. Marie’s Brad Jacobs in the lone men’s draw Wednesday at the MTS Centre.
The Okanagan crew faced Toronto’s John Epping (1-4) Thursday night. Morris ends the round-robin this morning (6:30 a.m. PT) against Edmonton’s Kevin Martin, who he won Olympic gold with at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
“We’ve been playing extremely well,” said Vernon’s Cotter. “We had a bit of an off-game today (Wednesday), but we’ve put ourselves in a good a position.”
Jacobs and Martin, both undefeated at 5-0, met Thursday, the winner advancing to Sunday’s final. The second and third seeds face off in a Saturday semifinal. Two wins would guarantee Morris a spot in the semis, but there are five teams that are also chasing that third position.
“It could be messy,” said Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen, who was at 2-3 with Penetanguishene, Ont.’s Glenn Howard and Winnipeg’s Jeff Stoughton.
The champion represents Canada at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Feb. 7-23.
Morris trailed Jacobs 5-2 at the halfway point thanks to a four-point fourth end by the Ontarians. Morris clawed back with deuces in seven and eight.
Down two with the hammer in the final end, Morris split the house with one rock on each side after Jacobs’ third Ryan Fry attempted a peel, but could only tick it and remove two Jacobs stones sitting in the four-foot. Jacobs made a cross-house double with his first shot to sit one and Cotter attempted a freeze but was light. Jacobs picked the stone out for the victory.
“We didn’t play very well, but we still made it to the 10th end,” said Cotter. “When you’re playing the top teams you gotta go out and make shots and raise your game to another level.
“No matter who you’re playing it’ll be tough games. You’ve got to be playing in the 90s and managing games really well.”
In the Tuesday night draw, Stoughton conceded an 11-5 loss to Morris. Down 7-5 in the ninth, Stoughton flashed a double attempt and gave up four points to end the game.
In the women’s draw, the home-town crowd roared as Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones edged Ottawa’s Rachel Homan 7-6 to clinch first place Wednesday.
Jones improved to 5-1 and earned a spot in Saturday’s final by stealing a point on the final end when Homan’s last-rock draw was heavy.
Six rinks were battling for the last two playoff spots heading action Thursday. On Wednesday, Chelsea Carey of Winnipeg used a 10th-end steal to beat Val Sweeting of Edmonton 6-4 to move into second spot at 4-2.
Sweeting, Homan, Heather Nedohin of Edmonton and Sherry Middaugh of Victoria Habour, Ont. were all tied at 3-3, while Stefanie Lawton of Saskatoon (2-4) had an outside chance of reaching the women’s semi.
In other games Nedohin stopped Lawton 6-4 while Middaugh needed an extra end to beat Sonnenberg 7-6.