Yukon rink expelled from Brier qualifier

For the second year in a row, Yukon's champion curling team isn't in the big show at the Tim Hortons Brier.

For the second year in a row, Yukon’s champion curling team isn’t in the big show at the Tim Hortons Brier.

Yukon’s Team Smallwood was eliminated in the pre-qualifier tournament at the national men’s championship with a 1-2 record in Ottawa, Ont., on Friday.

“We didn’t go there 100 per cent, and it is what it is,” said skip Robert Smallwood. “I’m a little disappointed we don’t get to keep playing the rest of the guys, but that’s how they have it set up right now.

“One of my players had a sore back, another one had muscle problems in his legs. It just wasn’t all there.”

The Smallwod rink was ousted with a 7-5 loss to Jamie Koe’s N.W.T. team. Koe and the rest of his Yellowknife rink went on to win the qualifier and reach the main draw with a 7-4 win over Nova Scotia on Saturday.

Koe scored one in the eighth and ninth for the win over Smallwood.

“We had a chance in the ninth to score a deuce, I just had to do a little chip and take out a rock that was on the four-foot behind a couple of guards and I missed it by about an inch,” said Smallwood. “In the 10th end we were coming home with the hammer – we were only two down – but we missed our first guard and that was the end of the game almost … If you don’t get your first guard in play, they just keep knocking stuff out.”

Team Yukon, which included third Jon Solberg, second Clint Abel, lead Scott Odian and alternate David Rach, downed Nunavut 14-4 on Friday for their win.

The Smallwood crew opened the tournament with an 11-3 loss to Nova Scotia. It was a game in which the east coast rink could do no wrong, said Smallwood.

“In that game there, those guys would have beaten every team there the way that they played,” he said. “They didn’t miss a single shot. They had an answer for everything we did, so it was almost impossible for us to take advantage of anything.”

Smallwood and Odian were on Yukon’s rink at last year’s Brier pre-qualifier and were eliminated with a loss to P.E.I. The days of pre-qualifying rounds at the Brier and Scotties Scotties Tournament of Hearts – the national women’s championship – are numbered. Beginning in 2018, every province and territory will have direct entry into the main draw of both national championships.

Two weeks ago Yukon’s Team Baldwin, led by skip Nicole Baldwin, were eliminated in the Scotties pre-qualifier at the championship in Grande Prairie, Alta.

The season is not over for Smallwood, however. Robert and his wife Jody won their fourth straight Yukon Mixed Doubles Curling Championships in December and will compete at nationals beginning at the end of this month is Saskatoon.

“I’m looking forward to going to that with my wife Jody,” said Smallwood. “There are going to be a lot of good teams there … There are quite a few of husband-and-wife teams and some big names showing up for that one.”

Robert and Jody also captured their fourth consecutive title at the Yukon Mixed Curling Championship last month in Atlin.

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