PORT McNEILL—Brad Zealand says he has no master plan to sweep every curling bonspiel on the North Island this season.
Still, the Port Hardy skip did make it 2 for 2 with a victory over Port McNeill’s Keith Balcke Sunday in the A Final of the annual Broughton Curling Club men’s open ‘spiel.
“There’s no plan,” Zealand said with a characteristic shrug after running Balcke out of stones with a 5-3 lead in the eighth and final end. “Just go with the flow.”
Balcke was left swimming against the current despite reaching the A final of his home bonspiel for the fourth straight year — all of them runner-up finishes.
“How many times is the charm, again?” he joked. “(Zealand) played a great game. He didn’t give us anything.”
That went for the entire club, as visiting rinks from Port Hardy’s Fort Rupert Curling Club swept all three finals contested Sunday.
Barry Evans and his crew from the Port Hardy Volunteer Fire Department topped Broughton’s Jacques Gaudet 8-5 in the B Final, and Colin Hunko of Port Hardy built a 9-1 lead over two-time defending champion Mike Balcke before forcing handshakes after five ends.
“It was a clean sweep,” joked Brent Borg, Evans’ third.
Clean curling was the order of the day for Zealand and his rink of Norm Coleman, Jordan Campbell and Joe Godmaire. The team scored with each of its hammers, and pounced on every mistake made by Balcke and rinkmates Nick Russell, Don Riehl and Mark Tjepkema.
After an early exchange of singles, Zealand stole a point in the fourth end when Balcke’s final takeout attempt barely rubbed a guard. Then, two ends later, Russell inadvertently “burned” a Balcke shot by touching it on its way to the house as Zealand waited with his hammer. Instead of an apparent takeout — “I would have blanked the end,” Zealand said — the Fort Rupert squad was able to replace the lost stone and Zealand drew his final skip’s rock to the button for a two-point pickup and a 5-2 lead.
Balcke got back a single point in the seventh, but Zealand was content to clean house in the eighth, and a triple takeout by Coleman prevented any late drama from the hosts.
“It was a good, tight game,” Zealand said. “I just wanted to keep it clean; don’t let the house get cluttered up.”
Evans, who curled with Borg, Rod Romas and Gavin Texmo, seemed to be in a similar position as he carried a two-shot lead and the hammer into the final end. But Gaudet, Doug Anweiller, Mel Ward and Doug Parke contrived to perch two counting rocks, clinging to the edge of the 12-foot circle, and forced Evans to make a solid final shot to prevent an extra end.
Hunko, curling with John Maday, Tom Russell and Dean Hunchuk, grabbed a quick two-rock lead in the opening end and never looked back against Mike Balcke, Keith’s father. A one-point steal in the third and a three-point steal in the fourth gave Hunko a 5-1 lead entering the fifth end.
Balcke, poised to grab a single against Hunko’s array of counting stones, instead caught a “pick” on his final stone, which slid harmlessly away as Hunko secured the clinching, four-point steal.
“The shot was right there,” said Balcke. “That pick was a five-point swing.”
Much as Zealand repeated his A final victory from the Fort Rupert Mixed bonspiel two weeks earlier, so Hunko claimed a second straight ‘C’ win Sunday.
“It’s all about the C,” Hunko joked. “We’re trying to run the table in the C finals.”