The Chronicle Herald
Published: George Myrer – February 27, 2018 – 6:51pm
It’s been almost seven weeks since Jamie Murphy and his Halifax Curling Club rink have thrown a rock in competition.
On Jan. 14 Murphy made his last shot to close out a 9-5 victory over Mayflower’s Mark Dacey to capture his fifth provincial men’s curling title.
His next throw will be Saturday when his team, which includes third Paul Flemming, second Scott Saccary and lead Philip Crowell, takes to the ice at Regina’s Brandt Centre for the Tim Hortons Brier.
“We’re itching to be done practising and begin playing,” said Murphy. “It’s been a pretty long break for us.”
The foursome had a much-needed rest after the Nova Scotia Tankard championship. Their season was much longer than in previous years due to the addition to their schedule of the Canadian Olympic pre-trials competition in Summerside, P.E.I., in November. They advanced to the playoffs, but lost in a quarter-final match.
Murphy said they’ve ramped up their workouts in the last couple of weeks and are where they want to be heading into the Brier.
“We had a couple of practice games but for the most part we’re throwing rocks in situational-type scenarios and trying to make as many quality shots as possible. We feel good going in, everybody’s looking strong and everybody is feeling confident so I think we are ready to go.”
The last three visits the Murphy rink made to the Brier were filled with the tension of competing in the play-in division. Two times they were successful in making the main draw.
They won’t have that concern this year with the Brier expanded to a 16-team, two-pool format.
“We’re kind of looking at it as almost similar to our Tankard format,” said Murphy. “We’re going to play an eight-team round robin to start the week, similar to the Tankard.
“Then if we can get into the championship round I think the adrenaline boost will take over.”
Murphy said a downside to the new format is not having a chance to play all of the teams.
The Nova Scotia rink is seeded fourth in Pool A along with Team Canada’s Brad Gushue, Alberta’s Brendan Bottcher, British Columbia’s Sean Geall, Yukon’s Thomas Scoffin, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Greg Smith, Northwest Territories’ Jamie Koe and the wild card team. The winner between Winnipeg rinks Mike McEwen and Jason Gunnlaugson will fill the wild card spot.
Pool B features Manitoba’s Reid Carruthers, Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs, Ontario’s John Epping, Saskatchewan’s Steve Laycock, Quebec’s Mike Fournier, New Brunswick’s James Grattan, Prince Edward Island’s Eddie MacKenzie and Nunavut’s Dave St. Louis
Murphy sees the pools as “pretty” balanced and knows every game will be difficult.
“Really, you just have to go out and play your game because all those teams are good. The last-place team in our pool is Jamie Koe, who is in something like his 12th straight Brier, so the seeds are a little irrelevant because all the teams are strong.”
Nova Scotia opens play on Saturday against Alberta at 9 p.m. (AT), then meets Newfoundland and Labrador on Sunday at 4 p.m.
During the long break Murphy was able to watch Nova Scotia rinks excel on the national stage.
The Kaitlyn Jones rink out of the Halifax Curling Club captured the Canadian junior championship, and Dartmouth Curling Club’s Mary-Anne Arsenault won nine straight at the Scotties before a tough semifinal loss ended the run.
“It was super encouraging to watch them play so well. Our team certainly followed along very closely,” said Murphy. “It gives us a lot of confidence going in by watching how they handled themselves and hopefully we can keep that going.”