ALBERTON -- John Likely will be skipping a P.E.I. Tankard champion team at the Tim Hortons Brier for the first time since 2002.
Likely, who filled out his team with mate Anson Carmody, second stone Steve Burgess, lead Robbie Doherty and alternate Matthew Nabuurs, fought back from a 4-2 deficit at the fifth end break to tie his game against two-time defending champion Eddie MacKenzie 5-5 in the eighth end. MacKenzie blanked the ninth to maintain the hammer heading home, but his hammer attempt at running back one of his own guards over-curled and Likely stole the end for a 6-5 win.
Likely lost last year’s final to MacKenzie. “I owed him one,” Likely commented.
Doheerty and Nabuurs were with MacKenzie when he won the 2017 title.
Going into Sunday’s playoff game at the Western Community Curling Club with just one loss, Likely knew MacKenzie would need to beat him twice to keep the title and he admitted after the game it was looking different times like there’d be a 2 o’clock winner-take-all final.
Likely made an attempt at a difficult in-off in the fifth which would have given him four points if he made it, but his rock sailed through the house without contact, allowing MacKenzie a steal for a 4-2 lead.
The P.E.I. Scotties provincial women’s curling championship was going right down to the wire late Sunday. Suzanne Birt edged Sarah Fullerton 7-6 in the first playoff game Sunday morning and was meeting Veronica Smith in the afternoon final. Birt scored two in the ninth to go up 7-4. After two attempts at doubles with Birt’s tenth end stones only got clear of one rock each time, Fullerton was left with a draw to the eight-foot to tie the game, but her rock found some fast ice and slide too far to force an extra end. The women’s champion represents P.E.I. at the Scotties Tournament o Hearts national championship in Sydney, NS next month.
In the tenth of the Tankard final, MacKenzie’s lead, Sean Ledgerwood put a rock on the back of the button. Burgess and Carmody would later freeze on top of it while leaving the MacKenzie stone as shot rock. A Tyler MacKenzie attempt to corner freeze onto the Likely stones after a pair of double peels didn’t work, went heavy and set up beside their own shot rock. Likely seized the opportunity to blast them both although he did leave a MacKenzie stone at the back of the house.
Eddie MacKenzie, who almost cleaned the house on his first attempt, chose to run back his own guard with hammer but it just missed the target.
“To be honest with you, I wasn’t even watching. I just asked Anson, ‘How’s it look?’ and he said, ‘It looks good,’ and then it must’ve curled a little bit,” Likely said of the game’s ultimate outcome.
MacKenzie estimated his hammer shot over curled about a millimeter too much for him to make the shot.
“We stayed patient. Every game we stayed patient,” Likely said in describing the key to his team’s success in Alberton. “A lot of games we were down and we stayed patient every game.
“And the boys really started playing really, really strong.”
MacKenzie knows how close he came to forcing an extra playoff game “One millimeter or less. A hair.”
Three double peel attempts failed to work, he acknowledged. “That’s the way it goes sometimes. We were looking pretty good all game to win and didn’t finish.”
MacKenzie suggested he was up against a stronger Likely rink this year with Carmody and Burgess joining the team.