The shots were there when they needed them—and revenge was had on their Thunder Bay rivals.
And when all was said and done, Lorne Jackson of the Fort Frances Curling Club earned his first trip to the provincial men’s playdowns next month in Kapuskasing.
The local foursome finished with a 6-2 record at the 16-rink district playdowns, snagging the third-and-final berth with a narrow 5-4 win over former provincial champ Bruce Melville (Port Arthur) in the last draw Sunday.
“We definitely owed this team,” said Jackson, 35, who had bowed out in the semi-finals last year to Melville before finally breaking through in their third appearance at the districts.
Jackson and his rink of third Don DeBenedet, second Derek Jackson, and lead Wayne Beacham will join defending provincial champ Al Hackner and Ron Rosengren (both of Fort William) at the nine-rink playdowns Feb. 12-17 in Kapuskasing.
Hackner went 5-0 over the weekend while Rosengren rbounded from a 1-2 start to finish at 5-2.
Three rinks from each of the Northern Ontario Curling Associa-tion and the Temiskaming North-ern Curling Association also will compete in Kapuskasing, with the winner advancing to the Nokia Brier on March 9-17 in Calgary.
Meanwhile, Kevin Busch of Fort Frances, whose rink included skip Mike Kjerulf, second Ed Vold, and lead Cory Labbe, were sent packing Friday afternoon after going 1-3 in the triple-knockout portion in their first district appearance.
They opened play Thursday with losses to Murray Affleck (Kenora) 10-5 and Bobby Morgan (White River) 11-4, before beating Blake Ponton (Dryden) 8-6 on Friday morning to stay alive.
But they were eliminated that afternoon with an 8-1 loss to Cam McMillan (Dryden).
The final draw between Jackson and Melville actually was their third meeting of the weekend. Melville won the opening game 8-4 last Thursday, but Jackson rebounded and beat the Port Arthur rink 9-4 to open the double-knockout portion Saturday.
The key in the final Sunday came in the fourth end when Melville missed shot for two that gave Jackson a steal for one and the early 3-1 lead.
“That was a three-point turnaround,” said Melville, the 1998 Northern Ontario champ. “He more or less had control for the most part.”
Melville fought back to tie the game 4-4 coming home in the 10th. Jackson, with the hammer, jumped in the four-foot early, guarded it heavily, and Melville couldn’t match.
“He tried to follow me down. I didn’t have to throw last rock,” recalled Jackson.
After their opening loss to Melville on Thursday, Jackson beat Ponton 8-6, Jeff Zechner (Nipigon) 10-4, and John Salo (Fort William) 10-9 to advance to the double-knockout round that featured the top eight rinks.
He beat Melville 9-4, but then lost to Hackner 7-4 later Saturday.
But with their backs to the wall, Jackson edged Affleck 7-6 in the semi-finals before downing Melville again.
“Usually [at these playdowns] from the fifth-end break on, we have some trouble,” noted Jackson. “But this time around, we just carried on right through and made the shots when we had to.
“We made the draws and it just worked.”
“I think [Jackson’s] team was a little stronger this year,” said Melville. “They capitalized on the breaks we gave them.”
Jackson credited DeBenedet for adding veteran stability at the third position.
“He was very knowledgeable strategy-wise,” said Jackson, whose regular third, Dave Hughes, opted not to compete this year. “He added experience the team may have lacked.
“Plus, he’s a little older than us and he kept us younger guys calm,” he laughed.
DeBenedet said being a former More from rival skip of Jackson’s in zone playdowns and in local league play paid off when they teamed up at the districts.
“We played against each other a lot so we had a feel for each other’s games,” he reasoned.
The Raymond Roy rink was the last Fort Frances entry at the Northerns two years ago, finishing 3-5.