Stacey Fordyce’s road to another national Dominion Club Curling championship has a pit stop in Winnipeg this weekend.
Fordyce’s Brandon Curling Club team, including Christy Erickson, Stacey Irwin and Pam Gouldie, won the 2013 national championship for club teams that can have no more than one player who has been at an elite provincial championship in the last five years. They are one of 12 foursomes at the women’s provincial championship, which runs today through Sunday. As the defending champs, they know what to expect at provincials and at nationals, but their drive has not diminished despite their recent success.
"There’s huge motivation for us," Fordyce said. "We know exactly what nationals is all about and we want to go back that much more. We just want to get through this week and see where it goes."
This year’s provincial championship, however, will be longer than the previous ones. CurlManitoba increased the field from eight to 12 teams, with the top two from the two pools advancing to the semifinals. The bigger field allowed other Westman teams to qualify for provincials — Donna Treloar of Rivers, Pam Robins of Carberry, Darla Hanke of Neepawa and Pilot Mound’s Jackie McCannell — which Fordyce believes is a good thing.
"It gets more teams out and increases the interest in it and the more people who know about it, the better," she said.
Fordyce feels being the defending national champion puts a big target on her team’s back, but admits they aren’t putting pressure on themselves this weekend.
They aren’t the only ones who feel targeted this weekend. Steve Irwin feels his Brandon Curling Club team also sports a big bullseye at the men’s event, which runs from today to Sunday in Winnipeg.
Irwin has won the last two provincial titles and three of the last four. He also reached the national final two years ago.
However, his team has a different look this year. Justin Rabe was on his honeymoon during the Westman regionals, so the team brought Rabe’s dad Barry onto the squad. Barry Rabe will throw lead stones and hold the broom for Irwin, while Travis Brooks moves up to third and Cody Rabe will throw second stones.
Irwin admits the lineup change will affect the team dynamics, but he’s hopeful they can claim a third straight provincial crown.
"It’s definitely harder without Justin because we meshed pretty well skip and third," he said. "It’s a little different having everyone move up a position, but I don’t think it hurts us too bad.
"Barry helps us out with strategy a bit and we still get the strong sweeping of Travis and Cody at front end. Travis can definitely make all the shots at third and hopefully we put it all together for the weekend."
Irwin is the lone Westman team in his pool, while the other features Boissevain’s Neil Bugg, Carberry’s Rob Waterhouse and Dauphin’s Kyle Forsyth.
The men’s and women’s finals are Sunday at 6 p.m.
EXTRA ENDS: Former Brandonite Jill Officer is coming back to the Wheat City on Saturday with her Olympic gold medal. Officer, who played second on Jennifer Jones’s women’s team, will be in front of Scotiabank at the Shoppers Mall for a meet-and-greet from 1-2 p.m. She will also have complimentary team pictures that she will autograph … Former Brandonite William Lyburn has made a change to his men’s team. Lead Tyler Forrest has left the team due to family and work reasons and will be replaced by Daniel Gagne, a two-time provincial junior finalist… John Morris announced Wednesday that he is taking next season off. Morris called the game but threw third stones for B.C.’s Jim Cotter, whose team lost the Roar of the Rings Olympic qualifier and the Tim Hortons Brier finals this season. Morris said he would come back for a short season if Cotter’s squad is named Team Canada at next year’s Brier.