The third time proved the charm for Sean Geall at Parksville Curling Club Sunday evening, Feb. 4.
Geall, skipping a rink from Kelowna Curling Club, used an in-off shot on his final rock in the 11th end of play to topple defending champion Jim Cotter, 9-7, in the 2018 belairdirect B.C. Men’s Curling Championship final.
Geall returns to the Tim Horton’s Brier men’s national championship, to be held in Regina, SK, March 3-11, for the first time since winning the B.C. title in 2009. With his win, he also scissored a four-year provincial winning streak by Cotter, who curls out of Vernon Curling Club.
Cotter had previously beaten Geall twice in the tournament while rolling undefeated into Sunday’s final.
“In some ways it’s a bit of a relief to get back to doing this again,” said Geall, who lives in Maple Ridge. “It’s been awhile, and you start to wonder if that time is going to happen again. This is a big one.”
Geall’s third, Jeffrey Richard, previously won his own B.C. Men’s title out of Kelowna, in 2010.
“Jeff’s been there but Dave (Harper, team lead) hasn’t been there and neither has Andrew (Nerpin, the team’s second), so this is their first heart,” said Geall, whose victory was watched by his wife, his three small children and extended family.
“You can’t beat this. My oldest son is old enought he’ll maybe remember, but when we get (to Regina) it will be the thrill of a lifetime for ’em.”
Cotter, who had forced the extra end by scoring a point with the hammer in the 10th end to make it 7-7, gave himself a chance at a steal by cozying his final rock into shot position on the button while nearly freezing it to Geall’s rock at the edge of the four-foot circle.
Without a draw path due to a pair of high guards, Geall instead shot for a stone he’d left just off the T-line in the 12-foot circle to the right side. His final stone caromed perfectly off the outlier and rolled across the button to remove Cotter’s shot rock as Richard and his sweeper whooped and embranced in a group hug.
“I knew it was going to be used,” Geall said of the outlying rock. “I didn’t know if it was going to be (Cotter) or going to be us. Turns out, it was us.”
Earlier in the day, Geall outdueled Victoria’s Jason Montgomery in the page playoff semifinal to earn a 4 p.m. rematch with defending champion Jim Cotter in the 2018 belairdirect B.C. Men’s Curling Championship at Parksville Curling Club Feb. 4.
Cotter need only four games to reach the final, sweeping to a win in the A Event and downing Geall 6-2 in the Page 1-2 playoff on Saturday.
“We’ve been playing against each other for 30 years,” Geall said of facing Cotter in the final. “We’ve just have to get off to a better start. The last two games that we’ve played them we had a rough start, and trying to claw back the rest of the game is tough to do.
“So hopefully we have a better start, and we give ’em a game that way.”
Montgomery had won five straight elimination games, including a 7-4 win over Dean Joanisse of Golden Ears Winter Club in Saturday evening’s Page 3-4 game. But with Sunday’s semifinal tied 4-4 in the eighth end, he opted to bypass a relatively safe, one-point nose tap in favour of a high-risk shot that might have netted two or three points.
But the elaborate, multi-rock takeout attempt was a shade off the mark, and gave Geall a two-point steal that proved the difference.
“I suppose I could have taken the safe shot,” said Montgomery, whose squad discussed the option at some length. “But if I make that shot there it probably wins us the game. Of course, I didn’t make it, and it probably won them the game.”
Ironically, the winning skip had popped out to the arena lobby and did not see the shot that probably decided the game.
“To be honest, I was inside on the final shot (in the eighth), so I don’t even know what he did,” said Geall. “The boys told me we stole two when I got back out there.”
In the ninth, solid shot-making by Geall and his teammates left him counting four and forced Montgomery to draw to the four-foot circle with his final skip’s stone just to salvage a point and close to 6-5.
With the hammer and a one-point lead in the 10th, Geall simply kept the ice free of stones until taking out Montgomery’s final rock to blank the end.
Geall opened the game with a blank in the first end to retain the hammer. It paid off as he picked up two points in the second to grab the early advantage. But Montgomery promptly scored a three-point end in the third to jump in front.
The game then settled into a tight, strategic battle, with the skippers trading one-point ends through the seventh, when the teams sat tied at 4-4 to set up the crucial eighth end.
Montgomery and rinkmates Cameron de Jong, Miles Craig and Will Duggan were awarded plaques for their third-place finish following the game.
The 12-team tournament began Wednesday, Jan. 31. It has run with the help of roughly 200 volunteers, mostly members of Parksville Curling Club.
This is the eighth provincial championship hosted by the club, located in a converted hockey arena in Parksville’s Community Park. Parksville Curling Club hosted back-to-back men’s championships in 2012-13.