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Johnston wins battle of undefeated over Mikkelson

Krista McCarville rink also scores a big win in Tbaytel Major League of Curling play, downing former world champion Al Hackner 7-1.

KAKABEKA FALLS, Ont. -- It was billed as the marquee match of the night and skips Dylan Johnston and Ben Mikkelson didn't disappoint.

Both teams entered play on Wednesday night at the Kakabeka Curling Club with identical 2-0 records atop the Tbaytel Major League of Curling standings.

It was fitting the back-and-forth affair came down to the final stone.

Tied 6-6, Mikkelson had a chance to score a one-shot victory, but facing a tough shot, couldn't feather  throughhis last rock through a slew of guards ringing the front of the house.

The shot crashed, leaving Johnston's lone stone hugging the four-foot for the winning point, the former Northern Ontario playdowns finalist and defending Major League of Curling champion taking the game 7-6.

“That wasn't our best performance in the last couple years, but we stuck to it, made a couple of pretty close shots,” Johnston said.

One of the key shots came on his last in the fifth, when he completed a double takeout and stuck around to score three, turning a 4-2 Mikkelson lead into a 5-4 advantage.

Mikkelson battled back with a deuce in the sixth, only to have Johnston, whose team includes Brennan Wark, Oye Sem Won-Briand, Chris Briand and Kurtis Byrd, even things up in the seventh, scoring a single to tie the game 6-6.

“We came back with a big three-ender in (the fifth), but Mikkelson came right back with a couple. We managed to pull it off,” Johnston said.

The loss dropped Mikkelson to 2-1, while Johnston sits in top spot a 3-0.

The two rinks weren't the only teams looking to remain undefeated this season.

However, the bid to stay perfect didn't work out as planned for former world champion Al Hackner, who fell behind early to Krista McCarville, the key blow a flash on his final stone of the third that allowed the eight-time provincial women's champion to score a steal of three and take a 4-1 lead. Another steal in the fourth increased McCarville's lead to four and she put it away in the fifth with a steal of two when Hackner's attempted triple fell short of its goal.

It's a big win, said McCarville, whose team of Ashley Sippala, Sarah Potts and Jordan Potts, joined Hackner at 2-1 with the 7-1 triumph.

“I feel good. Obviously going into a game like that against a guy like Al, we want to win. We have to have our intensity up and try to play the best that we can,” said McCarville, taking advantage of the ice time to hone her skills for a possible ninth trip to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, scheduled for Thunder Bay, but widely expected to be played in a bubble elsewhere in 2021.

Sarah Potts, who took last year off after having twins, said it's a good feeling being on an early roll in Major League play.

“It's a pretty good start. We haven't had the best track record with Major League. I know our coach Rick (Lang) is always on her case about that. It's nice, and beating Hackner is nice because he's really good.”

Lang, who happens to be her father, gave them added incentive, jokingly telling his team they would be denied the bag of jujubes he brought as a reward had they lost.

Candy is clearly a great incentive.

In other action, Jonathan Vellinga roared back to score three in the eighth to send his match with Mike McCarville to an extra end, then stole a pair to take the match 8-6. Trevor Bonot pulled out a nail-biter over Dallas Burgess, scoring a single in the eighth to edge his opponent 4-3 for his first win of the season. Vellinga improved to 2-1, while Bonot picked up his first win to jump to 1-2. Burgess and McCarville both remained winless at 0-3.


Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith is Dougall Media's director of news, but still likes to tell your stories too. Wants his Expos back and to see Neil Young at least one more time. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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