By Darrell Cole
Amherst Daily News
AMHERST - Howie Gray knows his team faces an uphill climb when the Nova Scotia Curling Association's men's northern zone Molson Tankard playdowns begin here Friday, but he plans on being more than the token host rink.
"Our main objective is to be competitive and put on a good showing for our home club," said Gray.
Seeded 15th, Gray's rink opens the three-day, triple-knockout qualifier for the provincial championship Friday at 8 a.m,. against Jamie Murphy's foursome out of the Mayflower Curling Club in Halifax, the No. 2 seed.
"We know they are going to be tough. They just won an Atlantic tour event in Moncton and he is a very notable curler," said Gray. "We know we'll be the underdogs."
Gray's team includes lead Desi Hurley, second Ray Fowler and third Bob Sutherland. The quartet has been curling in the Moncton super league throughout the year and hopes that experience will pay some dividends this weekend.
Gray said his rink plays an aggressive game focusing on open hits while trying to stay away from in-between weights.
While he's hoping playing on home ice will have some advantages, Gray said all participating teams will have a practice session at the club before the competition begins.
"It should be an advantage, but generally at this level of curling it shouldn't make that much of a difference," said Gray.
Seven of the teams from this event will qualify for the 16-team Molson Tankard at the Mayflower club Feb. 3-7.
Two clubs will qualify Saturday afternoon with two more Sunday morning. The final three will advance at the end of play Sunday afternoon.
The provincial champion won't have far to travel to the Tim Hortons Brier. It's being held March 6-14 at the Halifax Metro Centre.
Mayflower's Shawn Adams, a former provincial champion, is the top seed.
Rob Harris, who won a Brier in 2004 as second for Mayflower's Mark Dacey, is the No. 4 seed. Another former Tankard winner, Mayflower's Steve Ogden, is seeded 10th.
This is the first of two provincial events to be hosted by the club this year.
The club will host the Nova Scotia senior men's (ages 50 and older) championship Feb. 24-28.
1. Shawn Adams, Mayflower; 2. Jamie Murphy, Mayflower; 3. Doug MacKenzie, Mayflower; 4. Rob Harris, Mayflower; 5. Peter Burgess, Truro; 6. Blaise MacEachern, Strait; 7. Dan Christianson, CFB Halifax; 8. Mark Robar, NSCA; 9. Brent MacDougall, Mayflower; 10. Steve Ogden, Mayflower; 11. Ryan Garven, Mayflower; 12. Shane Carson, Dartmouth; 13. Chris Harter, Strait; 14. Keith McMaster, Lakeshore; 15. Howie Gray, Amherst.
8 a.m. - Gray vs. Murphy, Robar vs. MacDougall, Christianson vs. Ogden.
12:30 p.m. - Burgess vs. Carson, Harris vs. Harter, MacEachern vs. Garven, MacKenzie vs. McMaster.
4:30 p.m. - Adams vs. winner Robar/MacDougall.
Friday, 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m., 3 and 8 p.m.
Sunday, 10 a.m., 3 p.m.
By Darrell Cole