Rob Schlender learned the price of patience at the Twin Anchors Houseboat Curling Classic – exactly $8,000.
Trailing New Westminster’s Brent Pierce by a point with three ends to go, the Edmonton skip bided his time, blanking the sixth and seventh ends before stunning his opponents with a three-ender in eight to secure a 5-3 win in his Twin Anchors debut Monday afternoon at the Vernon Curling Club.
“Once we blanked six, we pretty much made our minds up that we were going to blank seven and lay it all on the line in eight,” said Schlender, supported by third Chris Lemishka, substitute second Steve Lagrandeur (Don Bartlett is the regular) and lead Darcy Hafso.
“The ice was really nice. With not a lot of people out there, the ice was cold so it was good from start to finish.”
Pierce, backed by Kelowna third Jeff Richard (skip’s stones), second Kevin Recksiedler and lead Grant Dezura, looked to be in control in the final end with three stones protecting a partially covered rock in the house. A gorgeous come-around tap-and-roll behind cover by Lemishka changed the complexion of the end.
Facing three Schlender stones, Richard came up short on a final desperation shot to try and force an extra end.
“We didn’t really play our best in the final, all the way through. It was a pretty sloppily played final by both teams, but they just happened to get the break in the final end,” said a disappointed Pierce, whose rink collected $6,000 as runners-up.
Two-time defending champion Kevin Koe, who earned a bye into the final four, and Vernon’s Jim Cotter each collected $4,500 for making the semis. Quarterfinalists TJ Perepolkin of Vernon and Alexey Tselousov of Russia each pocketed $3,500.
Schlender went undefeated in triple-knockout preliminary play to earn a berth in the semis, where he brushed back Cotter 5-4 in another final-end thriller. Cotter iced Perepolkin 8-2 in the quarters.
“We came down just to have some fun and throw a lot of rocks at each other and continue to get better and better as each week goes along,” said Schlender, who operates his own consulting company in Edmonton.
“I still see room for improvement. There were one or two ends that could have gotten away from us, so I don’t want to say we’re at the top of our games.”
Pierce, who qualified through the C event, grounded Moscow’s Alexey Tselousov 6-1 in the quarters before bouncing Koe 5-4 in the semis.
The Schlender rink plans to log a ton of ice time this season to give themselves the best chance at qualifying for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
“With it being the year before Olympic qualifiers, we elected to go hard,” said Schlender, noting his rink will be competing in nine of the first 10 weeks this season.
Schlender and Cotter will both be at the $80,000 Westcoast Curling Classic this weekend in New Westminster.