Black Press Sports
Rick Sawatsky hopes his seventh time is a charm.
The Kelowna curler, who grew up and played junior in Vernon, will be throwing lead rocks for the Okanagan-based John Morris foursome at the 2017 Brier beginning Saturday in St. John’s, N.L.
Sawatsky, like Vernon’s Jim Cotter, will be making his seventh appearance at the Canadian men’s curling championship. Second Tyrel Griffith, from Kelowna, will be playing at the Brier for the fifth time.
“The feeling never gets old,” said Sawatsky, who has been a teammate of Cotter’s for all seven B.C. titles. “To be able to represent the province is a privilege and an honour. I know after we won B.C., Jim (Cotter) and I smiled and just appreciated the fact that we get to go back.
“It’s exciting to be part of it again, and this time we’re going to go and try make the most of it.”
The last time the Kelowna-Vernon curlers teamed up with Morris, the B.C. champs came agonizingly close to a Brier title, losing the 2014 Canadian final in Kamloops to Kevin Koe.
Three years later, with Morris skipping and Cotter again throwing last rocks, the Kelowna-Vernon crew has had a solid season on the World Curling Tour, winning one event, finishing second in another and qualifying in several more.
After a few weeks to get reacquainted early in the season, Sawatsky said the Morris-Cotter rink has hit its stride.
“Getting back after a hiatus with John, it took a little time for us to come together,” Sawatsky said. “But once we got comfortable again, everything fell into place pretty well. I think we got stronger with each event we played and hopefully that’s something we can carry with us into (St. John’s).”
This year’s Brier, as is often the case, is a who’s who of Canadian men’s curling. Defending national champion Kevin Koe, ex-Brier champs Brad Jacobs and Glenn Howard, former Olympic gold medalist and hometown favourite Brad Gushue, and Manitoba’s Mike McEwen are all included in the field. The Morris-Cotter rink has beaten each one of those teams at least once during the season.
As for playing for a Brier championship on The Rock, Sawatsky said the B.C. champs are looking forward to the experience.
“I think it’s going to be pretty fun,” Sawatsky said. “We were (in Newfoundland) last year for a Slam event, the fans were amazing and the atmosphere was top notch. I expect the same kind of excitement this time around.”
Still, all hype and pomp of a Brier aside, Sawatsky said his team is in Newfoundland this week with one goal in mind.
“We can just really need to focus on what we can control,” he said. “The four of us need to go out and have a good week, get to the final and see of we can win it this time. We think we’ve got the game and steam do it…it’s matter of us playing like we we’re capable of.”
The B.C. champs open the 2017 Brier Saturday against Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs.
The winner will represent Canada at the 2017 Ford World Men’s Championship, presented by Service Experts, April 1-9, at Northlands Coliseum in Edmonton.