Monday, June 18, 2012

Inaugural (Wilmington) Beachspiel: Recap

We had a great time at the Coastal Carolina Curling Club's Inaugural Beachspiel on Saturday! They did a great job, especially considering that this was their first big event. It would be hard to justify not going again next year, in part because we will be the defending champions!

Let's start with the facility itself. If you're going to start a curling club in Wilmington, NC, there aren't many places to do it. While the Raleigh area has at least five ice facilities, some of which have multiple rinks, I believe the Wilmington Ice House is the only traditional ice rink in the area. Not only that, but they only have one rink! So if you want to play hockey in Wilmington, there is only one place you can do it. Scheduling has to be a challenge for them, right? (Wilmington also has a "synthetic ice skating rink". What is "synthetic ice"?)

Like I said in the preview, I wasn't sure what to expect with the ice conditions. How much time would they have to work on the ice beforehand? Would it be "Zamboni and go" (like on a league night), or would they have some time to try and level out the ice beforehand? Turns out they worked on the ice pretty much all Friday night into Saturday morning. Having some experience with this myself, I know how hard that can be, and I thought they did a great job. There were falls (usually towards the walls, which is the opposite of what we usually experience at home), but nothing unreasonable, in my opinion. I certainly didn't hear anyone complain about the ice, and I have heard some complaints at some of our home bonspiels. (Then again, the bonspiel field was about 75% arena ice curlers, 25% dedicated ice curlers; but as far as I know, that 25% had a great time!) The ice was a good speed, too, although it's worth noting that the curling sheets were shorter than regulation length. Perhaps the shorter sheet length (about the same as our club once had) and subtle falls gave our team an advantage that we wouldn't have had on perfect regulation ice?

Alrighty...let's curl!

Career game #182: Beachspiel Game 1 - Saturday, June 16, 2012

End............... 12345678 |TTL
Triangle (Jaun)... 12040102 | 09
Philadelphia...... 00202020 | 06

In the preview, I said that I expected a couple of "highly skilled teams from somewhere up north" to be competing. Is this team from Philadelphia one of those teams? I thought they might be, but they had about the same amount of curling experience as our team. If we played these guys 10 times, I think we'd lose 6 or 7 of the 10. (On dedicated ice? 9 out of 10.)

We definitely got some breaks in this game. For example this was the setup for one of our Skip Chris J.'s shots...

(Our team = red. Disclaimer: It's hard to remember specific shot details when you play three games in one day. So, take these diagrams with a grain of salt, as they say. There may have been one or three red rocks in the house here, rather than two, or something. I don't remember. I don't even remember which end this was. The 24 ends we played on Saturday kind of run together.)

Take out the yellow rock, right? Problem was, there was a decent left-to-right fall here, so getting by those "guards" and still hitting the yellow was a challenge. But what ended up happening was truly remarkable: the rock fell so much that it wicked off the inside of the "G" rock, kicked left, and then hit yellow rock #1. That's arena curling for you. I feel bad when we're playing against a dedicated ice team on arena ice, and something like that happens.

But we did make our share of shots, and we certainly played well enough to capitalize on the occasional friendly bounce. (That wasn't the only one in that game.) Whether we really deserved the win or not, we'll take it!

Now...some words about the format. Since we only had time for three games each rather than a full elimination bracket, "points" would determine the overall champion: 5 for a game win, 1 for each end taken, and 0.25 for each point scored in a game. For example, we earned 12.25 in Game 1: 5 for the win, 5 for the five ends we took, plus 9*.25 = 2.25 for the nine points scored. We also earned an additional 1.5 points by playing the 8th end, compared to if the game had been stopped after the 7th. Remember that when I talk about this next Beachspiel rule...

Many (not all) bonspiels have some rules regarding timing in order to keep the games on schedule. The Beachspiel timing rules were unique: you have 105 minutes to finish the game. They used the scoreboard clock, buzzer, and everything, which I've never seen at a bonspiel before. If the last rock of an end has been delivered before time runs out, then that end counts. Otherwise, the not-yet-completed end does not count.

I mention this because in Game 1, we finished the 7th end with less than 10 minutes left on the clock. That's not enough time to play another end, right? I didn't think so, and I took my glove off and was prepared to shake...but the Philadelphia team (trailing by one at the time) said, "Let's keep playing!" Their strategy? Throw the first few rocks of the end all the way through the house as quickly as possible to save time, and then slow it down later in the end and try to score one. A reasonable strategy, and I don't blame them one bit, but...this can get a little tricky, especially in a sport where etiquette is king. If you're us, how much do you hurry up knowing that if you don't finish the end, you win? We just played at a normal speed - didn't rush our shots, but didn't deliberatly stall, either. (Deliberately stalling would certainly not have been in the "spirit of curling".) And, we ended up completing the 8th end...and in hindsight it's a good thing we did from a competitive standpoint, because it actually gave us a few extra points that would very much come in handy later in the day.

As far as the timing rule itself goes, many bonspiels (if they have a timing rule at all) say "when time runs out, finish the end you're on, and then play one more end after that". I think that's a better rule, because then you're not putting anyone in an awkward position where in the final end, one team is rushing to beat the clock, and the other team is indifferent to the clock. Instead, when it matters most, both teams can play normally and go for the win. Here, setting an 80 minute clock and having the "finish this end, plus one more" rule might have been best, in my opinion.

Well, anyway...Game 2!

Career game #183: Beachspiel Game 2 - Saturday, June 16, 2012

End............... 12345678 |TTL
Triangle (Jaun)... 00002131 | 07
Minot/Triangle.... 11110000 | 04

Our first two opponents were pre-determined, with the third opponent determined by the point standings at the time. So, winning Game 1 did not give us a more difficult Game 2 opponent like I thought it might. I think our Game 2 opponent (two curlers from Minot, ND, plus Patrick and Amy from Triangle) lost their first game before facing us. (Speaking of Triangle, an incredible 8 of the 16 teams entered in the Beachspiel had at least two Triangle curlers; 5 of those 8 had all Triangle curlers. And, Triangle teams ended up taking the top two positions. Needless to say, our club represented well!)

So...the first half of the game, obviously, was a struggle. However, just about every final shot of the first four ends was a "Hail Mary" shot by Chris J. that did just enough to cut them down to one (as opposed to giving up two or three) and keep us in the game. Even down 4-0, I wasn't feeling too bad. We were playing reasonably well. A break here or there, and we're back in it.

In the second half of the game, the other team started wearing down (note: alcohol may have been a factor for the Minot folks) and missing their takeouts, allowing us to score in each of the last four ends. The sheet we played Game 2 on was definitely the straightest-playing sheet, making this game a take-out game. Curling around guards wasn't impossible, but it was difficult, and we pretty much had to rely on a missed take-out, followed by well-placed guard, in order to set ourselves up for points. (I remember throwing lots and lots of guards in this game. Straight ice means that while take-outs are easier to make, precise guards are also easier. Raises, too!)

Of the three, I think Game 2 was my best, personally. By then I was all warmed up, and not yet tired, either. Although I didn't really get all that tired playing three games in one day, at least not at the time; it's when playing five games over three days, for example, that my muscles start to get sore. (I am kind of sore today, though. I knew it would catch up to me eventually.)

And...yes, it's so much easier for me to make shots when someone else is calling the strategy. Vice is definitely my best position. I can offer strategy advice here and there, without worrying about what line to call (an admitted weakness of mine), call the entire game, or have the pressure of making the final shot of every end. The stats (3-10 as a Skip at bonspiels, 16-8 as a Vice at bonspiels) don't lie!

At this point, I think our point total had us in 4th place out of 16 teams. Two of the top three teams played their last game before we did, and we'd be playing against the other top team ourselves, so we already knew what we needed to do in order to win the bonspiel: win our last game (obviously), and either take 5 ends and score 13 points, or take 6 ends and score 9 points. (Admittedly, knowing what we needed to do was a pretty big advantage; otherwise we might have played a little more defensively once we got the lead.)

Career game #184: Beachspiel Game 3 - Saturday, June 16, 2012

End............... 12345678 |TTL
Plainfield/Tri.... 20000001 | 03
Triangle (Jaun)... 03212110 | 10

Our opponent here was one part Plainfield (NJ) Curling Club and three parts Triangle, including Justin and Tabby, whom Amber and I have curled with many times before and are curling with again in both August bonspiels.

This is actually the game I remember the least about, so it gets the shortest recap. I think there was one end (the 6th?) in which the other team was looking pretty good, maybe looking at four or five, only to end up taking out their own shot rock by mistake, I think, opening the door for us to get one and keep the dream alive. The game was a lot closer than the score indicated, so I can't say we were in "control throughout"; we just made the shots when we needed to make them, and got a lot of the breaks, I suppose. I don't really know what we did to steal all of those ends.

So, we're in the 7th end. Since we did the math before the game, we knew the deal. Sure, the scoreboard says 9-2, but we still had work to do: one more end to win the bonspiel. It was the most tense 9-2 game in the history of curling (perhaps). And we may not have had time for the 8th end (which it turns out we did, but only because we hurried), so the time was now. Up comes Skip Chris J. with this setup: (Our team = red, and again, this is APPROXIMATE.)

This sheet had a right-to-left fall, which means you couldn't curl from left-to-right and get to the button. And we couldn't draw around the other side either - either there was a guard out there, or we just simply weren't having any luck with that line. So, the play was to raise #1 into the house. Chris J. executed perfectly, and the rock finished about an inch (if that) closer to the button than yellow rock #2. The championship winning shot! I remember yelling very, very loudly on the sweep calls there. (Well, we did need to hold the line and get around that yellow guard, you know. I tend to yell louder on the big shots.) It was exciting!

Oh, and remember that extra 1.5 points we got in Game 1? We wouldn't have won the bonspiel without it. We finished 0.5 points ahead of the vaunted Murray/Kathy Triangle team.

Our Skip gets the shot diagrams, but Lead Sean C. and Second Andrew F. played great all day. The reason I threw a lot of guards was because Sean and Andrew put us in great position end after end. Total team effort! And here are the individual trophies we won:

(Note - I believe they will be using a different lighthouse for the trophy model next year.)

We also get our names listed on the main trophy as the inaugural Beachspiel champions. Hooray! Thanks to everyone at the Coastal Carolina Curling Club for putting on a great event!

The win prompted me to go back through the stats and assemble some bonspiel-related statistics, much of which is now part of the curling section of By the Numbers:
- This was my 14th career bonspiel, and my 7th career away bonspiel. (That includes three one-day intraclub events, not just full multi-club bonspiels.)
- Five of the 14 bonspiels were "pointspiel format" bonspiels; the other nine were bracket-style format.
- I have two career bonspiel championships, both in "pointspiel format" events. My other win was an intraclub one day event in June 2010; the Beachspiel was my first interclub event championship.
In bracket-style bonspiels:
- I've made the overall final once, losing in the final of the 2010 Carolina Classic.
- I've made the final of a consolation bracket twice, winning both of those times (4th event at the 2009 Carolina Classic, 2nd event at the 2011 GNCC Arena Club Championships). Both of those were at home; I have never curled in the final draw of an away bonspiel. (The 3rd event semifinal of the 2011 Kayser still eats at me sometimes.)
- I've curled on Sunday in 5 of 9 bracket-style bonspiels. My record in Sunday games is 4-3.
- At the other end of the spectrum, I've gone winless in two bonspiels. We could chalk both of those up to a lack of experience (my first away bonspiel, and my first away bonspiel as Skip), but it's only a matter of time before my next 0-3. It happens.
- My career bonspiel record is now 27-24, including 17-7 at home, 7-17 away from home on dedicated ice, and now, 3-0 away from home on arena ice.

And speaking of statistics, Amber and Marla made the trip down for part of the day, too, giving Marla four new counties. Yay!

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