Backs against wall is good spot for Jason Montgomery team

VANCOUVER — The Jason Montgomery team has been beating the odds all season. On Saturday night, their unlikely run was just two wins away from a trip to the Tim Hortons Brier. Montgomery, from the Victoria Curling Centre, was playing former world champion Brent Pierce in the semifinal of the Canadian Direct Insurance B.C. Men’s Curling Championship at the Vancouver Curling Club.

Montgomery won 8-7 in an extra end on a measure.

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“Sometimes we play best when our backs are against the wall,” Montgomery lead Will Duggan said, before the game, about his teammates Montgomery; Jody Epp, the last-rock thrower; and second Miles Craig. “As long as we can stay calm and not get too nervous about the situation, we’ll be OK.”

In the glare of television lights and Sportsnet and cameras, the game began with a few nerves rattling overthrown shots but wound up all tied up at 4-4 by the fifth-end break. After trading singles, Epp missed a raise takeout in the fourth end, allowing Pierce a big three-ender.

As they have all tournament, however, the Montgomery clan battled back. In the fifth, Geall tried to come through a hole to get to two Montgomery counters but racked off a guard. Epp’s draw overcurled but twirled off a guard and landed just biting the 12-foot to score three.

Montgomery, without hammer, went right after Pierce in the sixth and got a bundle of rocks clustered around the four-foot, behind cover. Pierce, who was struggling, missed his shots, and Epp froze one on the pin to sit two. Geall attempted an in-off for one, but didn’t make it, leaving the Victoria team with a steal of two and a 6-4 lead. In the seventh, Epp made a hit and roll to sit one, and it led to another stolen point.

Gaell made a nice draw that led to a Pierce steal in the ninth, and Epp was six inches short on a draw to the button for the win, resulting in another steal and an extra end.

The semifinal winner meets the Kelowna/Vernon back-end duo of skip John Morris and fourth-rock thrower Jim Cotter today in the B.C. final at 4 p.m. on Sportsnet.

In the one/two game on Saturday, the Morris team struggled throughout, then somehow produced a four-ender in the 10th end, for a 9-8 win.

“It was our worst game of the week,” Morris said. “For some reason, we didn’t have it.”

Morris said the Pierce team outplayed them at every position, but in the 10th end, the “wheels fell off.” With Morris sitting three, down 8-5, Pierce opted to have fourth thrower Sean Geall attempt a raise double takeout with his last rock rather than hit an open stone and go to an extra end. Geall missed, leaving Cotter a draw for four.

“The curling gods were smiling on us,” said Morris, who won Olympic and world gold as third for Kevin Martin and led the current team to the Olympic Trials final. “No matter who we play [in the final], we know we have to play better than we did today.”

For Montgomery, a B.C. junior champion in 2003 with Craig and Duggan, the semifinal game was a first in men’s play, while Epp made it to a semi a few years ago as third for Wes Craig. The experienced skip joined the Montgomery team this year to play third, but Montgomery’s knee surgery threw a glitch into the season. With Montgomery throwing lead stones, the team played eight games in just over two days at the Island playdown to qualify for provincials, where Epp has continued to throw last rocks, and Montgomery is third.

In the last of four must-win games, Montgomery qualified for the Page Playoff on Friday night, downing former B.C. champion Jeff Richard 7-6. In the three/four game on Saturday morning, the Montgomery crew sent Kimberley’s Tom Buchy packing in a six-end 9-1 victory.

“They played really well. They made everything,” Buchy said.

The Brier is March 1-9 in Kamloops.

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