New-look Team Ja­cobs re­turns to the ice at Canada Cup

Sentinel-Review (Woodstock) - - OPINION - GRE­GORY STRONG

A new-look Team Brad Ja­cobs will have a fel­low Olympian in tow at this week’s Canada Cup as the rink at­tempts to put re­cent dis­trac­tions aside and con­tinue a strong first half of the sea­son.

Marc Kennedy will fill in for third Ryan Fry, who is tak­ing an in­def­i­nite leave af­ter his dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion from a bon­spiel last month in Red Deer, Alta.

Kennedy, who won Olympic gold in 2010 and re­turned to the Games this year, was avail­able as a re­place­ment since he’s tak­ing a break from com­pet­i­tive play this sea­son. The veteran left-han­der will prac­tise with the team Tues­day at Affin­ity Place ahead of a two-game open­ing day Wed­nes­day.

“It’s the first time Brad will see the rock come out from the other hack,” said Team Ja­cobs coach Adam Kings­bury. “But I think that can just be a pos­i­tive thing. Just that mind­ful fo­cus on mak­ing sure that the broom is in the right spot and mak­ing sure that the com­mu­ni­ca­tion is crys­tal clear.

“But out­side of that, I think the team is pretty lucky to have some­one of Marc’s cal­i­bre be will­ing to step in at a time like this.”

Ja­cobs, who skipped his team to an Olympic ti­tle in 2014, is com­ing off a win at last month’s Grand Slam stop in Thun­der Bay, Ont., and is cur­rently ranked sev­enth in the world.

Fry re­cently an­nounced that he would be tak­ing a break from the Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.-based team to fo­cus on his “growth and self­im­prove­ment.” His de­ci­sion came af­ter his team was ejected from the Red Deer Curl­ing Clas­sic for what or­ga­niz­ers called un­sports­man­like be­hav­iour re­sult­ing from ex­ces­sive drink­ing.

Fry, who was play­ing as a sub­sti­tute at the World Curl­ing Tour event, was kicked out along with team­mates Jamie Koe, Chris Schille and DJ Kidby. All four play­ers is­sued state­ments to apol­o­gize for their ac­tions.

Team Ja­cobs later an­nounced that Kennedy would fill in for Fry at the Canada Cup and Matt Woz­niak would serve as a sub­sti­tute at the Dec. 11-16 Na­tional in Con­cep­tion Bay South, N.L.

The rest of the men’s field at the Canada Cup in­cludes Regina’s Matt Dun­stone, Brad Gushue of St. John’s, Ed­mon­ton’s Bren­dan Bottcher, Cal­gary’s Kevin Koe, Win­nipeg’s Reid Car­ruthers and Toronto’s John Ep­ping.

Reign­ing world cham­pion Jen­nifer Jones of Win­nipeg head­lines the women’s side. Ot­tawa’s Rachel Ho­man, Win­nipeg’s Alli Flaxey, Ed­mon­ton’s Laura Walker, Cal­gary’s Chelsea Carey, Casey Schei­deg­ger of Leth­bridge, Alta., Kerri Ei­nar­son of Gimli, Man., and Win­nipeg’s Darcy Robert­son are also in the field.

An ex­tra women’s team was added due to a vir­tual tie for the fi­nal qual­i­fy­ing spot in the 2017-18 Or­der of Merit stand­ings.

The win­ning teams will be guar­an­teed berths into the Pre-Tri­als ahead of the 2021 Olympic Tri­als. The Canada Cup cham­pi­ons will also qual­ify for a Curl­ing World Cup event next sea­son.

Kennedy an­nounced last March that he would be tak­ing a break this sea­son to recharge and rest a nag­ging hip in­jury. He took on a con­sult­ing po­si­tion with Curl­ing Canada and has been prac­tis­ing through the au­tumn.

The 36-year-old won Olympic gold with skip Kevin Martin at the 2010 Van­cou­ver Games. Kennedy teamed with skip Kevin Koe last sea­son but they did not reach the podium at the Pyeongchang Games.

Even with lim­ited prac­tice time, Kings­bury pre­dicted a smooth tran­si­tion with Kennedy join­ing Ja­cobs, sec­ond E.J. Harn­den and lead Ryan Harn­den.

“I don’t fore­see it be­ing an is­sue at all,” he said. “The guys have known each other for a re­ally long time. They’ve both ex­pe­ri­enced very sim­i­lar things in the sport.”

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