WESTLOCK - Curling fans in Westlock had a serious case of déjà vu Sunday as Brendan Bottcher’s team was once again crowned men’s provincial curling champions after a thrilling 7-6 victory over the Karsten Sturmay rink that came down to the final rock in the final end.
The 2020 edition of the Boston Pizza Cup was held at the Rotary Spirit Centre Feb. 5-9, just as the 2017 provincial men’s curling championship was, and the result was identical with Bottcher and his team of Darren Moulding, Bradley Thiessen and Karrick Martin defeating Sturmay’s rink consisting of himself, Tristan Steinke, Christopher Kennedy and Glenn Venance.
With the hammer, Bottcher was able land his last stone in the eight-foot rings and claim victory and his spot in the Tim Horton’s Brier in Kingston, Ont. next month. This after an earlier Bottcher stone in the end went through the house, seemingly giving Sturmay the advantage.
“It’s awesome, Westlock is going to have to host more often,” said Bottcher after all was said and done.
“We actually did it very similar this time, we stayed in the same hotel, we ate at the same kind of restaurants and we played the same kind of curling … It’s not a superstitious thing, but once you’ve got something that you’re comfortable with, there’s nothing wrong with sticking with it and I think we did that this week.”
Bottcher had some stiff competition throughout the round robin, placed in a pool with the always formidable Ted Appelman rink, the James Pahl rink, the Kevin Park rink, the Jacob Libbus rink and the Scott Webb rink.
Bottcher’s team finished with a 4-1 record, falling only to Appelman in the Friday night draw, which put Bottcher’s team into second in Pool A, heading into the playoffs.
For their part, Sturmay’s team finished their round robin portion of the tournament with a 4-1 record, having lost only to the Daylen Vavrek rink. Aaron Sluchinksi’s team also finished with a 4-1 record.
Sturmay played Appelman, winning 4-3 in an extra end, while Bottcher was up against Sluchinski, coming away with an 8-4 win in nine ends, setting up a rematch of the 2017 final between Appelman and Bottcher Sunday morning to decide who would face off against Sturmay in the final.
Bottcher was able to pull it out with an 8-5 victory.
The final itself was a master class in the art of curling, with Bottcher taking a 5-2 lead midway through the game and Sturmay making a comeback to tie it at 6-6 going into the final end.
With the hammer, Bottcher himself used the last stone in the tenth end to draw into the eight-foot, just past two of Sturmay’s yellow stones. From there the celebration began as the audience applauded the two rinks for a hard fought, competitive battle on the ice.
“They played an amazing second half,” Bottcher said of Sturmay’s team in an interview after the game with Sportsnet’s Kevin Martin, an Albertan and Canadian curling legend in his own right.
“I think Alberta curling has a strong future ahead. There’s lots of us who put in the time and effort in juniors and have stuck with it.”
Bottcher said afterwards he would like to take that momentum gained in Westlock into the Brier in March, which will decide the best men’s team in the country. The team has been there before, but this time, he hopes it will be different.
“We’re certainly excited. Last year we went, but as the wildcard and that felt a little bit different and this year it’s so great going back as Team Alberta,” he said.