PORT HARDY—It wasn’t exactly a three-peat, but three years after Port Hardy skip Brad Zealand commenced the chase for his third Hugh Fraser Memorial bonspiel championship, he hit paydirt.
Teamed with his traditional rinkmates of brother Shaun, brother-in-law Mark Hutchinson and Andrew Smith, Zealand put away Campbell River’s Ed Schmuland 7-2 to claim his third Fort Rupert Curling Club men’s open bonspiel title Sunday.
It was his first A final win in his home spiel since winning back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010.
“It feels good,” said Zealand, who forced handshakes after scoring a four-point sixth end to put the match out of reach. “It’s always nice when you can pull out a win. We’d been kind of struggling in some of our bonspiels recently.”
The host club enjoyed a strong showing in Sunday’s finals, snaring wins on all three sheets in which it was entered.
Barry Evans led his Port Hardy Fire Rescue rink of Brent Borg, Jeff Tam and Greg Smith to the B title by crafting a 6-3 lead over Port McNeill’s Tom Baker and running Baker out of stones in the final end to force handshakes.
And Port Hardy’s Mike McCulley claimed the D final with the aid of Saskatchewan curler Peter Brown, who traveled to the North Island to curl for the first time with son Brendan Brown, McCulley’s second. The squad built a solid lead and hung on in the final end to edge Courtenay’s Brent Aitken, 8-7.
The C final went to two-time Hugh Fraser winner Tom Veary of Campbell River, who downed Port McNeill’s Keith Balcke, 5-2.
Zealand’s rink was nearly flawless throughout the three-day bonspiel, particularly in the final against a struggling Schmuland. After spotting the visitors a stolen point in the opening end Zealand and his mates methodically took control, even forgoing a free one-point draw in the second to retain the hammer for a two-point pickup in the third end.
Schmuland managed a single stone with his hammer in the fifth, but overshot the button on the sixth to open the door for Zealand’s deal-closing, four-point pickup.
“He didn’t have his best game,” Zealand said of Schmuland. “If he makes his last shot there at the button it’s a different game; it could have been tied.
“We just had a good read on the ice, and a couple of shots turned out to be the key.”
The A final win was actually the fourth for Brad and Shaun Zealand, who teamed with father Neil in a rink skipped by their uncle, Gord Zealand, to win the 2001 title.
Evans, whose rink rarely missed a shot in a solid final, used two-point pickups in the fifth and sixth ends to build a 6-2 lead in the B final, and was content to clear Baker’s stones the rest of the way to prevent a big end.
Baker was happy despite his B final loss to Evans. He was joined by fellow Broughton Curling Club veteran Don Riehl and newcomers Doug Goodman and Aaron Metcalfe.
“My whole front end was new,” said Baker. “I’m happy with the way everyone played. I didn’t expect to make it this far.”
2013 Hugh Fraser Memorial Men’s Open Bonspiel
At Fort Rupert Curling Club
Round 1: Veary d. Evans; Baker d. McCulley; Hunko d. Thurber; Green d. Aitken; Schmuland d. Campbell. Round 2: Veary d. Baker; Hunko d. Green; Schmuland d. Bjornson; Aker d. Conley; Maday d. De’Ath; M. Balcke d. Breakfast Club; K. Balcke d. Wall; Zealand d. Baroutis. Quarterfinals: Hunko d. Veary; Schmuland d. Aker; M. Balcke d. Maday; Zealand d. K. Balcke. Semifinals: Schmuland d. Hunko; Zealand d. M. Balcke.
A final: Zealand 7, Schmuland 2.
Round 1: Evans d. McCulley; Aitken d. Thurber; Breakfast Club d. Conley; Wall d. Bjornson; Baroutis d. Campbell. Quarterfinals: Evans d. Aitken; Wall d. Breakfast Club; Baker d. Baroutis; De’Ath d. Green. Semifinals: Evans d. Wall; Baker d. De’Ath.
B final: Evans 6, Baker 3
Round 1: Green d. McCulley; Campbell d. Maday; K. Balcke d. Conley. Quarterfinals: Campbell d. Green; K. Balcke d. Baroutis; Aker d. Thurber; Veary d. Bjornson. Semifinals: K. Balcke d. Campbell; Veary d. Aker.
C final: Veary 5, Balcke 2
Quarterfinals: Breakfast Club d. Thurber; McCulley d. Maday; Aitken d. Conley. Semifinals: McCulley d. Breakfast Club; Aitken d. Bjornson.
D final: McCulley 8, Aitken 7