This year’s SaskTel Tankard provincial men’s curling championship will bring the best competitive Saskatchewan curlers from the ranks of the World and Saskatchewan Curling Tours. For Humboldt and area fans, there’s an added bonus of being able to cheer on long time local favourites.
St. Gregor’s Dallan Muyres put together a rink last spring. made to launch them into the Tankard hunt. With a successful wrap up in the C event of the Last Chance Spiel held in Tisdale last weekend, the largely local team has done just that. Now curling out of Saskatoon, Muyres and crew put together a gutsy comeback in their final game to secure a spot in the Tankard event happening at Affinity Place Arena in Estevan from February 1-5.
The team includes Foam Lake area native Garret Springer, Jordan Tardi of World Juniors fame who hails from BC, and Wadena’s own Dustin Mikush. The team has been criss-crossing the prairies looking to build up tour points and gearing up for the provincial run. The good news for team Muyres is that it’s been gaining momentum into the new year.
“The group that we have here really gels off-ice and on-ice,” Muyres says. “The communication and teamwork has been really good. We probably were looking for a couple more wins earlier in the season, but like most curlers will tell you, if you’re pulling it together coming into playdowns, that’s really where you want to hit your stride. I feel like we’re finding our groove now on the ice.”
Dallan and his brother Kirk came through the junior ranks and transitioned to men's play, sticking together for many years, and eventually going their separate ways in curling ventures. At the Last Chance, Dallan Muyres and some of his contemporaries glanced around the ice to see first hand the face of men’s curling shifting to a new generation.
“There are quite a few young teams, and some junior eligible teams yet. One of those teams beat us in the A final. So, it’s actually really positive for curling in Saskatchewan, and seeing some of those young guys out there really fired up our crew. We were really focused on getting the win and earning our spot in provincials.”
Muyres admits it was a hard fought entry into the field. Their final game in the C event pitted them against Josh Bryden, and the Muyres crew found itself on the ropes, down 6-3 at the end of the seventh. A three ender in eight and three more stolen points in the final two ends left Muyres with the spoils and a trip to Estevan.
“Some of those games, you can go shot for shot, but at some point, a little bit of experience and knowledge settles the nerves and allows you to drive that win home. We knew we had the skills, and we knew we had time in the game to make a comeback. We relied on the process and trusted it. At the end of the day, had it gone the other way, we would have been disappointed, but we would have understood the outcome. We just came out on the right side of that game, for sure.”
Those kinds of comebacks and “down to the wire” exchanges are becoming more likely with rule changes like the final end no tick rule. Muyres says both fans and curlers may be divided on its implementation, but in the end, no one can argue that it doesn’t provide a chance for a full ten-plus ends.
“As a fan and as a curler, I think the no tick rule is absolutely critical to the future of curling and the game. There’s nothing more disappointing than a close game, coming into the last end, and the opposition makes two really good tick shots. The opportunity to win the game at that point is next to nothing; the fans know it, the players know it. The rule certainly helped us in this situation, and I think it’s going to be really great for curling.”
Muyres is interested to see how the rule might affect some teams’ approaches to the latter ends of a game when there is a points differential either way.
Muyres admits the team is a bit of an underdog going into the twelve team slate at provincials, but that, in no way, diminishes their confidence about putting on a good show with a strong finish.
“We’ve got skills and lots of experience on this team. We’ve got provincial champions, and a Canadian and World champion in Jordan, so we’re sitting in a good position here. We’re feeling confident going into provincials, but we’re cramming in a little extra practice getting prepared. I’m really excited to be part of a twelve team provincial and really curious to see how it’s all going to settle out.”