George Myrer The Chronicle Herald
Published Friday, November 2, 2017 – 8:21pm
The odds may be long for curlers Jamie Murphy and Theresa Breen when they compete at Road to the Roar pre-trials next week in Summerside.
But not as long as they were just a few short months ago.
Neither Murphy or Breen had a spot in the pre-trials that begin Monday at Credit Union Place. The pre-trials will determine the final two entries for the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Canadian Curling Trials in December, where Canada’s men’s and women’s representatives for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, will be decided.
The Murphy rink was on the outside looking in until the field was bumped up to 14 teams, allowing the Halifax Curling Club foursome into the trials as the last seed.
Breen secured her entry when Stefanie Lawton of Saskatoon had to pass on their spot because the points they earned on the Canadian Team Ranking System over two seasons were entirely with her 2015-16 team, which was completely changed for 2016-17.
Breen’s Mayflower rink of Marlee Powers, Jocelyn Adams and Amanda Simpson was next in the standings and took the spot.
Murphy isn’t concerned about his team’s long-shot status. They have seen all their competition and know they belong.
“The field, for the most part, is relatively balanced,” said Murphy. “There’s a lot of really great teams. I would classify the 14 teams as pretty comparable. Anybody can beat anybody on any given day and it’s going to come down to who is the best prepared and has the best week of execution.”
Murphy and his team of Paul Flemming, Scott Saccary and Phil Crowell open the pre-trials on Monday against British Columbia’s John Morris. Morris is an Olympic gold medallist as the third for Kevin Martin in 2010 at the Vancouver Olympics.
“All the teams are good, obviously Morris has quite an accomplished resume,” said Murphy. “We played them last year at the Brier and had a pretty good game against them so it’s a great way to start the event.”
The Murphy rink played four high-calibre events to prepare for next week’s competition. The schedule has the team ready to play at its best level, says Murphy.
“Everything is going well. We’ve played four events, three of them in Ontario, and had some pretty good results,” said Murphy.
“We’ve made two semifinals and we’ve played a lot of really great teams along the way, which was what our intention was when we set up our schedule. We wanted to be better prepared and more comparable to the teams we are going to play in the pre-trials. It’s been a good season thus far.”
Breen and her crew were thrilled to get the invitation to attend the pre-trials and immediately ramped up their preparation.
“We got our official invite in July and it was obviously a thrill for our team because we had earned that spot,” said Breen. “It’s been a very busy season to begin with, but we had a gap in our schedule that we were looking to fill in November and maybe a little bit of karma that the timing blended perfectly with our schedule.
“We have ramped up our activities, given the importance of this event, to make sure that we are ready.”
The veteran skip said her team has enjoyed a successful start to their season.
“We’ve actually had a terrific start to the season,” said Breen. “We have played in four cashspiels, won one and finished second in two. The end goal of these cashspiels was to get the max number of games. Getting through the round robins and getting into the playoffs is awesome. Playing three-game days and getting the max number of games is excellent preparation.”
Breen isn’t concerned with being the lowest-ranked seed in the event.
“No question we are the last-ranked team to get in. Lots of those teams aren’t going to be familiar with our team and we feel confident because we earned our spot here by being in the top 20 ranked teams in Canada.
“And what’s the difference between the 10th and the 20th? Probably not a lot, so we feel we have prepared as well as we can and we are really excited about this opportunity for our team to represent the area.”
The men’s field is rounded out by Jean-Michel Ménard of Saint-Romuald, Que., Greg Balsdon of Kingston, Ont., Mark Bice of Sarnia, Ont., Dayna Deruelle of Brampton, Ont., William Lyburn of Winnipeg, Pat Simmons of Winnipeg, Jason Gunnlaugson of Winnipeg, Colton Flasch of Saskatoon, Charley Thomas of Edmonton and Brendan Bottcher of Edmonton.
On the women’s side, Kelsey Rocque of Edmonton, who won back-to-back world junior women’s championships in 2014 and 2015, will be among the contenders, as will Krista McCarville of Thunder Bay, Ont., who’s finished in the final four at the past two Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
Also in the women’s field are teams skipped by Sherry Middaugh of Coldwater, Ont., Julie Tippin of Woodstock, Ont., Jacqueline Harrison of Mississauga, Ont., Tracy Fleury of Sudbury, Ont., Briane Meilleur of Winnipeg, Darcy Robertson of Winnipeg, Shannon Birchard of Winnipeg, Kerri Einarson of East St. Paul, Man., Nadine Scotland of Calgary, and Karla Thompson of Kamloops, B.C.