Chess on ice

Dave Kearsey
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Corner Brook duo hoping to win province’s first mixed doubles curling crown

CORNER BROOK  Corner Brook Curling Club’s Donna Davis and Stephen Shepherd will throw stones in a different environment this weekend, but the duo expects to battle for a championship crown.

The two Corner Brook curlers, who formed the front line of the Kenny Young foursome that represented the province at the 2012 national mixed curling tournament, will be gunning for glory at the inaugural provincial mixed doubles curling championship this weekend at the ReMax Centre in St. John’s.

Mixed doubles curling continues to grow in Canada and all over Europe, but this will mark the first time Newfoundland and Larador participated in such an event.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Curling Association decided to host its first-ever event after hearing that mixed doubles curling will be introduced as an Olympic sport in 2014 in Socchi, Russia.

“I’m excited because it’s so different and so new, and it’s the first one for Newfoundland,” Davis said this week before making the trek across the island.

Mixed doubles curling is unchartered waters for the tandem, but Davis believes the familiarity between her and Shepherd positions them as a strong contender against the townies.

Of course, there are some major differences in mixed when compared to the game played with a full complement of four players.

Mixed curling involves the two team members throwing a total of five rocks per end instead of the traditional eight rocks thrown by each team per end. One of the team members throws and sweeps the first and fifth rocks while the other is holding the broom at the other end, and then the other player throws the second, third and fourth stones. To make things even more interesting, there are already two stones in place (one per team) before the first stone is thrown. The team with the hammer has their coloured stone positioned at the back of the button while the opposing team’s rock is placed halfway between the house and hog line.

“That first rock thrown is crucial because if you go behind the T-line that’s bad so what you want to do is place your rock either right on the face of the rock that’s in the house, which is the opposition’s rock or have it somewhere up front,” Davis said of the strategy the team plans on folllowing.

One of the biggest challenges for all entries, according to Davis, is dealing with the fact there are going to be a lot of rocks in play.

“It’s more like chess on ice than it’s ever been,” she said of the newer version of the sport. “You’re not allowed to remove a rock out of play until after the fourth-playing stone has come to rest.”

Davis and Shepherd have a gameplan they hope will give them a crown. They want to represent the provincial curling community at the national mixed doubles curling championship March 14-17 in Calgary, Alta.

“The big thing for us is having the finesse shots like having really good draw weight and tap backs and stuff,” she said.

“It’s not about blasting a bunch of rocks because you got four rocks to play before you can take a rock out.”

The tournament gets underway today with a double round-robin format that will see the top two teams advance to Sunday’s final. If a team goes undefeated they will have to be beaten twice.

Organizations: ReMax Centre, Newfoundland and Labrador Curling Association

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Newfoundland, Canada Europe Socchi Russia Calgary, Alta

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