Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Francis Dykes 2012 Bonspiel: Preview

The Grand National Curling Club (GNCC), a father organization to all East Coast curling clubs, runs three annual bonspiels (curling tournaments) for curlers with 5 years or less of experience ("5-and-unders"). Last year, I curled in two of the three: "The Dykes" (men's), and "The Kayser" (mixed - two men, two women). (The third is "The Childs", which is the women's 5-and-under.) I had a blast at both of them, and my teams did reasonably well, going a combined 4-6 and playing on Sunday both times.

This year, we're missing "The Kayser", because it's far away (Boston-ish) and we have this kid to take care of, too. But having begun my curling career in the summer of 2007, this is my last year of 5-and-under eligiblity, and so I absolutely did not want to miss "The Dykes", which takes place this weekend in Utica, NY.

Since this is my last year of 5-and-under eligiblity, I kind of wanted to be the Skip this time, so I assembled my own team: Chris H. at vice, Chris J. at second, and Adam P. at lead. My Skip from last year's Dykes, Mario, has his own team this year, which gives Triangle Curling Club two teams at "The Dykes" for the first time ever. Exciting! We're proud to represent the arena club faction of the GNCC. And I think we have two pretty solid teams, too. We're bringing some of our best young curlers with us. I might even be the only one of the eight of us whose eligibility is running out this year, so our future looks bright! We're almost exclusively carrying the arena club torch at this year's Dykes, too - I only see one other arena club team on the list of teams, hailing from Bucks County Curling Club near Philadelphia.

Our first game is Thursday at noon, in the very first draw of the tournament, against a Utica team that I'm not familiar with at all. I can guarantee that Game #1 certainly won't be a pushover, and it will be my first game on dedicated curling ice since last February at "The Kayser", so...I'm trying to keep my expectations in check. But the good news is, unless you have aspirations of going "all the way" (let's be realistic here), the best game to lose in a bonspiel is usually the first game. But the downside of losing Game #1 in this case is that our second game would be at 11:00p Thursday night. We will definitely be napping that afternoon if that's what happens.

So...let's talk about the draw. They haven't posted it online, but I have it in hand. Utica is the only 6-sheet club in the GNCC, and that means the draw is rather unusual.

Most bonspiels have a three game guarantee. This one does, too. But since we're playing in the very first draw, we actually have a FOUR game guarantee. No matter what, and even if we start 0-3, we will play at least four games. That's nice, because we'll be up there for a while.

Playing in an event final at an away bonspiel is one of my primary curling goals, and this year's Dykes gives us a greater opportunity to do so, because six sheets means six "events"! However, there also happen to be 50 teams at this year's Dykes (up from 47 last year), so our odds of making the final draw are still not that high.

Our easiest routes to the final draw are in the "B event" (lose the first, win the next three), the "E event" (lose, win, lose, win, in that order), and the "F event" (lose the first three, win the fourth, and then place in the top two of a "shootout" - whatever that is - among five other teams). The E and F events aren't "medal events", however, so I'm not sure if that would count as far as meeting my "event final" goal goes.

Our hardest routes to the final draw are, ironically, if we win our first two games. That would put is in the elite "A event" (the primary bracket) and the "D event", which exclusively features other teams which started 2-0 or better. If we start 2-0, then we know every remaining game will be a dogfight, and once we lose two under that scenario, we're done. But that's okay, because starting 2-0 and finishing 2-2 would still be a major success in my book.

What is there to do in Utica when we're not curling? Not much, so Adam and I are probably going to roadgeek a little. Hey, it's what we do.

The weather forecast looks to be cold (lows around 10, highs in the 20s?) with not much snow. There is also currently no snow cover in Utica. If I go four days in Utica, in February, and see NO SNOW, not even on the ground, I will be very disappointed.

We're leaving in a couple of hours, and will spend the night in Binghamton, NY (two hours short of Utica), tonight. Whether we drive all the way back on Sunday will depend on whether we curl on Sunday.

As always, you can follow along all weekend on Twitter. Let's go team! Let's have some fun!

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