Port McNeill skip Keith Balcke prepares to release a shot during Sunday's North Island Zone club championship final against Campbell River at Broughton Curling Club.

Port McNeill skip Keith Balcke prepares to release a shot during Sunday's North Island Zone club championship final against Campbell River at Broughton Curling Club.

McNeill rink falls in epic final

Broughton Curling Club earns rave reviews as hosts and as competitors in the North Island Zone club championships.

PORT McNEILL—The men of Broughton Curling Club earned rave reviews as hosts and as competitors in the North Island Zone club championships.

But they did not earn a berth in the Dominion provincial finals and the Pacific International Cup, to be held jointly later this month in Richmond.

Port McNeill skip Keith Balcke and rink mates Nick Russell, Don Riehl and Matt Tjepkema pushed Campbell River skip Ron Schmidt to the final end of what became an epic, best-of-three series before succumbing in Sunday’s title game.

“These guys, they played us real tough for all three games,” said Schmidt. “Plus, they worked all weekend.”

And, Balcke noted afterward, the local squad played in all six draws of the double-elimination format tournament — including three straight extra-end matches — before settling for second place.

The Dominion-sponsored club championship, the first held at Broughton Curling Club since 2002, drew six men’s and five women’s rinks from as far as Powell River and Qualicum Beach.

Val Schultz and her Comox women’s rink swept unbeaten through the weekend, clinching the club’s sixth straight title with an 8-6 win over Campbell River’s Nicole McCurrie.

But Schmidt faced a stiffer test from Balcke and his mates on the men’s side.

After needing an extra end to edge Port McNeill in Saturday’s play, Schmidt went on to finish unbeaten atop the winner’s bracket. Balcke worked his way back through the loser-out bracket, including a win over the Fort Rupert Curling Club team of Mark Hutchinson, John Maday, Norm Campbell and Joe Godmaire, to earn a rematch in Sunday morning’s final.

In that game, Balcke parlayed the hammer in the final end into a two-point pickup and a come-from-behind, 5-4 win over Schmidt, Norm Cote, Greg Burness and Trevor McClung. The win left both rinks with one loss and forced an “if necessary” third meeting Sunday afternoon.

Port McNeill took the early lead at 2-1 through four ends before Campbell River rode a big, three-point pickup in the fifth to take control at 4-2. After blanking the sixth to keep his hammer, Balcke was forced to accept a single point in the seventh end and needed a steal to stay alive in the eighth and final frame.

With his final stone, he managed to take out Campbell River’s shot rock. But in trying to roll behind Schmidt’s second counting stone in the 12-foot, he went too far and allowed Schmidt to pocket his hammer and a ticket to Richmond.

“We just missed some shots early, then couldn’t get anything going in (ends) seven or eight,” Balcke said. “I missed draws in one and four that could have changed the way the rest of the game went.”

Port McNeill was bidding to become the first winner from the area since the Port Hardy rink of Doug McCorquodale, Brad Zealand, Hank Bood and Karl Wilson won the 2009 title.

Schultz steamrolled through the women’s field with teammates Mare Michell, LeeAnne Alberti and Melanie Rait, including an elimination win over the Port Hardy rink of skip Laina Hunko, Myra Connaty, Naomi Stead and Lori Walker.

 

Port McNeill’s women’s rink of Brenda Drummond, Kristen Kerr, Tammy Symons and Serena Foldy also competed, but failed to advance.