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Berths in Brier, Scotties on the line as B.C. curling championships open at Archie Browning

Victoria Curling Club rink aiming to defend title
Sterling Middleton watches his rink’s rock during the Victoria World Curling Tour Tournament at the Victoria Curling Club in November. Victoria Curling Club members Middleton, Jason Ginter and Alex Horvath along with skip Catlin Schneider of Regina will be among the rinks competing in this week’s provincial curling championships at the Archie Browning Sports Centre in Esquimalt. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Curling is a staple Canadian rite of winter, with the biggest show in the province playing out this week in Esquimalt, as the 2024 B.C. championships open today at the Archie Browning Sports Centre with the men’s winners advancing to the Brier and women’s to the Scotties national championships.

The Victoria Curling Club trio of third Sterling Middleton, second Jason Ginter and lead Alex Horvath will be looking for a repeat of last year’s breathless run to the 2023 B.C. men’s title in Chilliwack, when they were part of the fifth VCC rink to qualify for the Brier and first since Dean Joanisse in 2007. But there is a new skip at the head of the team this year with Catlin Schneider of Regina, who has played in three Briers with Saskatchewan-champion rinks, replacing the departed Jacques Gauthier.

“Obviously, as the defending champions, we have the targets on our backs,” said Horvath.

One of the tasks for the rink before the banquet Monday night was to return the provincial championship trophy to Curl B.C. so it could be put on display during the week. It’s now again up for grabs.

“It’s going to take our ‘A’ game to get back to the final on Sunday,” said Horvath.

That is just one of the plotlines as the roads to the Brier and Scotties Tournament of Hearts play out. Each of the 12 men’s and eight women’s teams who have survived their regional playdowns has a story to tell this year, backed by the pedigree of past seasons. That includes two other VCC men’s rinks – skip Corey Chester’s foursome backed by Paul Cseke, Jay Wakefield, Ty Russell, Rhys Gamache and Trevor Montgomery’s veteran rink backed by Chris Baier, Miles Craig and Troy Cowan.

Chester is a two-time B.C. junior champion. Montgomery has had a couple of runs in previous B.C. tournaments, including twice reaching the championship game, but falling just short of the Brier both times.

Cameron de Jong of Victoria, a former B.C. junior men’s champion and B.C. mixed champion, will skip a rink composed of curlers from Richmond, Vernon and Penticton. Daniel Deng’s combined Victoria and Royal City rink includes Connor Kent, Logan Miron and Daniel Dabiri. The 2022 champion, Brent Pierce of Royal City, is back shooting for another title.

Skipping the other men’s rinks are Jeff Richard from Vernon/Royal City, Sebastien Robillard of Vernon/Penticton/Victoria and Richmond, Jared Kolomaya of Royal City/Langley/Richmond, Rob Nobert of Vernon/Kamloops, Brad Thompson of Kamloops and Adam Fenton from Royal City.

Victoria will also be well represented in the B.C. women’s championship side at Archie Browning with three rinks. That includes skip Steph Jackson-Baier backed by Kayla Wilson, Liz Bowles and Carley Sandwith-Craig. It’s etched in the genes for Jackson-Baier, the 2014 B.C. champion, five-time B.C. junior women’s champion and also a provincial champion in mixed doubles. Her mother, Elaine Dagg-­Jackson of Victoria, has coached Canada in seven Winter Olympics, dad Glen Jackson is a former world junior champion and her late maternal grandfather, Lyall Dagg, was the 1964 Brier and world champion.

The other Victoria women’s rinks competing are skip Taylor Reese-Hansen backed by Megan McGillivray, Dailene Pewarchuk, Cierra Fisher and skip Emily Bowles backed by Meredith Cole, Gabby Brissette, Mahra Harris.

The other women’s rinks competing for provincial glory this week are Corryn Brown of Kamloops, Clancy Grandy of Vancouver, Diane Gushulak of Royal City/Vancouver, Kristen Ryan of GEWC and Holly Hafeli of Kamloops.

Draws are at 9 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. each day through Saturday at Archie Browning. The opening ceremony is today at 5:30 p.m. The championship games are Sunday with the women’s at 9 a.m. and men’s at 2 p.m. Tickets are available through Eventbrite.

The B.C. men’s champion will advance to the Brier national championship March 1-10 in Regina and the provincial women’s champion to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts national championship Feb. 16-25 in Calgary

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