Tankard is full

John
John Browne
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Provincial men's CURLING championship St. John's rinks earn final berths at open qualifier; Gushue to defend title against nine challengers

Ken Peddigrew is all for establishing a rivalry with five-time provincial champion Brad Gushue, but there's one problem.

"It would be nice to create,' admits Peddigrew, "(but) we really don't have one yet because he beats us too much."

Ken Peddigrew is all for establishing a rivalry with five-time provincial champion Brad Gushue, but there's one problem.

"It would be nice to create,' admits Peddigrew, "(but) we really don't have one yet because he beats us too much."

Peddigrew and his rink of lead Keith Jewer, second Jeff Rose and third Dave Noftall, will face Gushue - the defending Labatt Tankard provincial champion - at least once this week during the 2009 Tankard competition in Stephenville. Peddigrew's team was as one of four teams from St. John's to come out of the provincial open qualifier, which concluded in Corner Brook Monday. The others were Geoff Cunningham, Rick Rowsell and Dean Branton. There are normally two teams out of the Open, but four were included this time because there are no Central Newfoundland representatives in the Tankard.

The other teams competing for the provincial men's curling championship are Gushue and Alex Smith from St. John's, Keith Ryan and Jeff Staples out of Labrador, and Gary Oke and Bas Buckle, both from Corner Brook.

Gushue has won the Tankard five of the last six years. The one exception was 2006. That year, Gushue was on his way to winning an Olympic gold medal in Torino when Peddigrew posted an extra-end victory over Mark Noseworthy in the provincial final.

Still, Peddigrew says he doesn't have anything to prove this time around.

"It's a slightly different team because Dave Noftall, who was with Brad last year, is with us this year and our third (in 2006) was Ryan LeDrew," says Peddigrew.

Peddigrew says Gushue, the obvious favourite going into the event, is certainly beatable.

"Anybody is beatable on any given day," he says. "All the teams here have had some success against some of the best teams in Canada. We know we can knock off these first-class rinks when we bring our A game."

The provincial Tankard opens today at 2:30 p.m., with a second draw set for 7:30 p.m.

The key to beating the Gushue rink, which has won the provincial title five out of the past six years, says Peddigrew, is be prepared, "because they come at you hard when they have last rock. They wait until they have last rock and they come at you really, really hard."

Gushue's foursome of Mark Nichols, Ryan Fry and Jamie Korab, is third in the Canadian Team Ranking system (CTRS) standings behind Glenn Howard of Ontario and Kevin Martin of Alberta.

"What we have going for us," says Peddigrew, "is a really good team in the true definition of the word 'team'. Everybody knows each other really well and we play off each other really well. We pick up for each other. If someone misses a shot, we try that much harder to pick it up for them, that kind of thing."

"This is a team I've wanted to put together for the past 10 years or 12 years and I finally got to see it this year."

Meanwhile, Peddigrew wasn't impressed with the Corner Brook Curling Club's ice during the Open.

"The ice was really, really difficult," notes Peddigrew, who finished with a 2-1 record. "There were a lot of picks, very straight ice and it was tough to generate points."

He was happier with the ice at Stephenville's Caribou Curling Club, where his team got to throw a few stones Monday.

"We're very pleased. There's a little bit of curl there and the speed is good," he says.

The Tankard winner will represent Newfoundland and Labrador in the Tim Hortons Brier March 7-15 in Calgary.

jbrowne@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Canadian Team Ranking, Corner Brook Curling Club, Caribou Curling Club

Geographic location: St. John's, Stephenville, Corner Brook Newfoundland and Labrador Torino Canada Ontario Alberta Calgary

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