No matter what happened on the ice at Fort Rupert Curling Club’s Mixed Bonspiel final last weekend, the name Zealand was going to appear on the trophy.
After two days of round-robin play, Sunday’s A final was something of a family affair as Brad Zealand’s rink — sister Heidi Zealand, along with D’Arcy Deacon and Lori Walker — faced off against Andrew Smith, who was joined by Whitney Falconer, Shaun Zealand — brother of the opposing skip — and Shaun’s wife Kate. Zealand, of course.
A pivotal hammer in the fourth end by the Zealand skip took some of the wind out of the Smith rink’s sails and helped secure handshakes after the sixth end and a spectacular final rock.
With Zealand holding a three-shot lead, Smith threw his final rock of the fourth to sit scoring four and on the verge of a comeback.
Unfortunately for the Smith rink, a lack of guards left the door open for a clinical takeout from Brad to score one for Zealand and ruin Smith’s best chance at a high-scoring end.
In the opening ends Smith was left with difficult hammers at well-guarded houses after some great tactical setup play from both rinks and Zealand crept out to a four-shot lead.
Smith was left little choice but to draw to the button for one in the third to avoid Zealand running away with the game, but the loss of the hammer for the next end blunted the comeback’s momentum.
A freeze on the last rock pulled another back for Smith in the fifth after an uncharacteristic blunder from the Zealand skip.
After lining up a delicate draw and guiding in his sweepers, the rinks realized that Brad had played the wrong colour stone — “That was Friday and Saturday nights catching up with me,” he later joked.
Smith’s hopes of mounting a comeback were dashed by takeout play in the sixth end.
Faced with losing the hammer for a single point or going four down with two ends left, Smith opted to go out in style, spinning himself 360 degrees off the hack and pushing through to concede.
The B final was a much more nip-and-tuck affair, coming down to the final rock.
The Groening rink led by a single point going into the eighth end but was left with a tricky takeout to unseat the Hutchinson rink’s three scoring rocks.
Unfortunately for the skip, the hammer clipped a guard and lacked the force to change the order in the house.
The C final came to a similarly nail-biting conclusion, the Bjornson rink needing two from the last end but running out of rocks thanks to a handy draw from opposing skip Colin Hunko.