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Local rinks hope to cash in on home-ice advantage

Scott Henderson’s footsteps are near fossilized today. The last Thunder Bay skip to represent Northern Ontario at the Tim Hortons Brier, it’s been nearly eight years since Henderson’s 5-6 performance.
Scott Henderson’s footsteps are near fossilized today.

The last Thunder Bay skip to represent Northern Ontario at the Tim Hortons Brier, it’s been nearly eight years since Henderson’s 5-6 performance. It’s been 25 years and counting since Al Hackner produced the region’s last Brier win.

Since 2003 it’s been a steady stream of Sault Ste. Marie, Copper Cliff and Haileybury at the national men’s curling championship.

The Mike Pozihun and Bryan Burgess rinks hope home-ice advantage helps reverse the trend.
The two teams are the first pair of a dozen teams to qualify for the Northern Ontario Curling Championship, scheduled for the Fort William Curling Club starting Feb. 6.

Both squads are confident this is their year.


Pozihun, who qualified by winning the Courtesy Freight Superspiel, said there’s something to be said to staying close to home for the playdowns.

“We think it’s a big advantage. I’ve always loved Fort William ice. We think it’s great. We know the rocks somewhat. And then you’re home, you’re not eating out of a hotel. You’ve got your fans and you can wind down a lot better after a game,” Pozihun said last week, at the ticket sale launch for the week-long event.

Pozihun, who at 4-7 is near the basement of the Major League of Curling standings, said the Thunder Bay drought not lost on local curlers, who want to do something about it in 2011.

“It is (talked about) amongst us curlers because we’ve had a dry streak and it really doesn’t reflect the quality of teams, I don’t think, in Thunder Bay. Bryan goes down east and this is two years in a row he’s won the (Kia Curling Classic Northern Ontario) Superspiel,” Pozihun said.

“We just haven’t done it at the right time, which would be the Northerns. We had some good showings last year, but no one could really put it together to knock off (Sault Ste. Marie’s Brad) Jacobs. I’m thinking playing out of our home club here one of our good quality teams from Thunder Bay can come out.”

At least one, and possibly three, more local teams will be added to the mix once the lineup is finalized next month. The third squad will qualify at the Region 2 playdowns, slated for the Port Arthur Curling Club in January. The qualifying round could be the source for the other two, though Jacobs, a third-place finisher at last spring’s Brier, has to be a favourite in this pool.

Gary Weiss, who plays third for Burgess’s foursome, said the opportunity to compete at home should help relieve some of the pressure the Thunder Bay rinks will almost certainly feel when the NOCC hits town.

“Hopefully this year we’ll change things, having it here at Fort Williams. I’m hoping we’ll be that team to do it,” Weiss said.

The men have plenty to live up to, he added. Thunder Bay’s Krista McCarville ran the table at last year’s Ontario women’s curling championship and went on to earn a playoff berth at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

Home ice means that much, said Weiss, who has made it to the NOCC the past three years, all by virtue of superspiel wins.

“Being comfortable in the curling club helps a lot, as well as having your friends and family to support you. I think that’s a very positive environment for us to come into,” he said.

Tickets for the championship are on sale now. Weekly passes are $50, with daily passes going for $10 and single draw tickets are $5 apiece. Preferred window seats are $75. Tickets can be purchased at the Fort William Curling Club, by phone at 622-5377 or by email at info@fortwilliamcurlingclub.com.



 


Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith has been the editor of Thunder Bay Source for 17 years and has served a similar role with TBNewsWatch.com since 2009. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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