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Victoria Curling Club rink to open 2024 Brier against Ontario champs

National championship begins March 1 in Regina
Skip Catlin Schneider and his Victoria Curling Club rink are fresh off winning the B.C. championship at Archie Browning Sports Centre. (DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST)

The B.C.-champion Victoria Curling Club rink will avoid two-time Olympic-medallist and former world champion Brad Gushue, Olympian and two-time world-champion Kevin Koe and veteran Mike McEwan, who are in the other pool for the Montana’s Brier national championship beginning March 1 in Regina.

But lift up a rock at the Brier, in either pool, and you’re likely to have some sort of giant of the sport pop up and stand in your way. That’s exactly what the VCC rink will face when it opens March 2 against the Ontario-champion rink, skipped by former world champion Scott Howard.

The pools and draw for the 2024 Brier were released ­Monday.

“I don’t read too much into it,” said Catlin Schneider, skip of the VCC rink.

“The draw is what it is. You have to play well against all teams. If you don’t have them in your pool, you will have to get through them in the championship round to get to the eventual goal. If you’re looking for a soft rink in a Brier field, then it’s probably you.”

The VCC rink consists of ­Schneider, Sterling Middleton, Jason Ginter and Alex Horvath.

The Brier will feature 18 teams — the 14 provincial and territorial champions, Gushue as Team Canada and three Canadian Team Ranking System qualifiers — split into two pools of nine.

Although representing B.C., Schneider will be playing in his hometown of Regina.

“There are definitely going to be a lot of home-cooked meals,” quipped Schneider, who has played on Saskatchewan-champion rinks at three previous ­Briers, before being recruited to the VCC for the 2023-24 seson.

“It will be interesting with friends and family. But I have a job to do and will be putting my head down and staying focused and putting away the distractions.”

The Schneider rink beat Jason Montgomery in the all-Victoria Curling Club 2024 B.C. championship game two weeks ago at Archie Browning Sports Centre to advance to the Brier. It will be the second consecutive Brier appearance for third Middleton, second Ginter and lead ­Horvath after their VCC rink won the 2023 B.C. title when it was skipped by Jacques Gauthier, who this season joined Koe’s ­Calgary rink.

Curling is a cross-­provincial-borders affair now with ­Schneider skipping B.C. and well-known Manitoba curler McEwan skipping the Saskatchewan-champion rink.

“It will be interesting to see how the Saskatchewan crowd reacts. But that’s how curling is in this era,” said Schneider.

The Schneider rink is the sixth from the VCC to play in the Brier following Gauthier last year, Dean Joanisse in 2007 and 2001, Tim Horrigan in 1980 and Tony Gutoski in 1958. It will be the eighth appearance by an Island rink in the Brier, including Glen Harper of Duncan in 1960 and 1963.

Schneider’s VCC foursome will be looking to become the first rink from B.C. to win the Brier since Greg McAulay of Royal City in 2000 and the fifth Brier-winning rink from B.C. including Rick Folk’s of Kelowna in 1994, Lyall Dagg’s of Vancouver in 1964 and Frenchy D’Amour’s of Trail in 1948.