Tuesday, August 07, 2012

2012 Carolina Classic: Recap, Part Two

Carolina Classic Recap, Part One was posted yesterday, in which I talk about in general terms about curling on the same team as former world champion / Olympian Debbie McCormick. Today: game-by-game recaps, which are typically among the least-read posts in my entire blog. (But I've got to do them! I just do!)

Career game #186: Carolina Classic, first game
Friday, August 3, 2012

End.................... 12345678 |TTL
Triangle (McCormick)... 1214011- | 10
Charlotte (McKee)...... 0000100- | 01

(For those unfamiliar with my curling box score conventions: the team with last rock in the first end is listed second; teams are listed as "Club Name (Last Name of Skip)"; '-' indicates an end that was not played either because the game was conceded or because time ran out; 'i' indicates that the game was conceded mid-end once victory became mathematically impossible for the trailing team.)

I wasn't really sure how much of a difference having Debbie McCormick on our team would make going into the weekend, but now I know: it makes a difference. Even when we struggled, Debbie bailed us out. In the 2nd end, for instance, I think the rest of us might have missed all of our shots; and yet, we scored two. Want to guess which one of us threw the two scoring rocks?

But that's not to downplay the contribution of the rest of the team. As the Second, I bestowed upon myself the duty of calling the weight of each shot while sweeping. I thought I did a pretty good job. It's definitely easier than calling the strategy. Burns more calories, too!

I don't have a shot to diagram from this game, so instead, here's a picture of our club's fancy new rings and lines and such:

Prior to then, we only had outlines of rings, kind of like in my shot diagrams (see below). But the Ice House took the ice out a couple of weeks ago and let us paint in full rings and lines and everything, all of which help a LOT when you're out on the ice. And we don't just get that for the weekend, we'll have those rings and lines all next season, and beyond! That's exciting. Lots of arena clubs have been able to paint permanent rings and lines (to some extent) into their hockey ice, which is great.

Career game #187: Carolina Classic, second game
Friday, August 3, 2012

End.................... 12345678 |TTL
Knoxville (Hooper)..... 003000-- | 03
Triangle (McCormick)... 220241-- | 11

I think this was when I had my shot of the weekend (not necessarily the team's shot of the weekend, I'm just talking about me here): a raise take-out that rolled to the button behind cover: (our team = yellow)

And the best part was, this shot was called! Debbie definitely wasn't shy as far as calling difficult, fun shots went. What ended up happening a lot of times on those shots was that a "Plan B" came about and helped us anyway. I don't know if Debbie really considered those Plan B shots, or if we just got lucky, but we seemed to benefit from a Plan B shot an awful lot throughout the weekend, to the point where, I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. (Except for a particular shot in the 5th game that I'll get to.) One thing experienced curlers like Debbie can do on these long raises and take-outs is to know where to put the broom and when we need to sweep to a high level of precision, which is important, because one or two inches can make all the difference on shots like this.

Like most "really good curlers", Debbie called lots and lots of take-outs. But I wouldn't consider her strategy to be "wide open", just typical of a good curler. We usually started out by throwing guards, which is how she likes to play. Then, after Lead rocks, do we start throwing the take-outs. Sometimes I would go two or three ends without throwing a single draw or guard, which I think plays to my strengths, but it also makes it harder for me to make a draw or guard when we do need one.

By the way, here is the full draw from the weekend, if you're curious about how some of these other teams did. Charlotte (McKee) went 1-2 on the weekend; Knoxville (Hooper) went 2-2. (Note: Charlotte (McKee) is actually listed as Charlotte (Klein) on the bracket, and many teams - including us - have unofficial names outside of the typical "Club (Skip)" convention that I like to use here.)

Career game #188: Carolina Classic, 1st event quarterfinals
Saturday, August 4, 2012

End.................... 12345678 |TTL
Triangle (McCormick)... 33032004 | 15
Columbus (McGrady)..... 00300110 | 05

First off...opposing Skip Hal turns 80 years old next week. If I'm still curling as well at age 80 as he is (his team won its first two games of the weekend), then I'll have done well.

Let's go straight to the 8th end, which we figured, we might as well finish to completion, even though the game was pretty much over after our first two take-outs of the 8th end. It wasn't until each team had one shot remaining did I finally notice what was developing. After the other team sailed their final shot down the middle and through the house, we had this setup: (Our team = red; we had last rock)

Disclaimer: this is an APPROXIMATE diagram only; I only really know where red rock A and the yellow rock were located, because those were the important ones on our final shot. The important detail is that there were 7 rocks in the house, and that an open hit on the yellow rock would give us an 8-ender.

Now...some general words on 8-enders. Scoring 8 points in a single end is extremely rare, so much so that 1) an 8-ender has never occurred in the Triangle Curling Club, and 2) Debbie McCormick has never scored an 8-ender in her entire career. World Championship? Check. Olympics? Three of them. National Championship? Seven of them! But the 8-ender has always eluded her.

Well, here's her chance! Problem is, this is a more difficult shot than it looks, due to the ice conditions. We were playing on Sheet 1, which had a bit of a fall towards the outside, and that's where this rock was located. And it doesn't matter how many national championships you've won, hitting take-outs on a sheet with falls is never a gimme, especially when you consider that we absolutely had to hit the yellow rock on the inside. Hit the yellow rock on the outside, and the shooter might roll out of the house, or the yellow rock might jam on that rock I labeled with an "A" back there.

And, that's ultimately what happened. The shot looked good halfway down, but once the fall to the outside kicked in, there was no saving it, and the yellow rock jammed on red rock "A", giving us a measely four, instead of the 8-ender and the curling immortality that went along with it.

I mean, can you imagine? Debbie McCormick scoring an 8-ender at our bonspiel would have made headlines! (At least, in curling circles.) Given the choice between winning the bonspiel and having that 8-ender, I'd take the 8-ender in a heartbeat. I mean, the odds of one of my teams ever getting that close to another 8-ender, ever, are probably slim.

Still, Debbie was taking the missed opportunity harder than the rest of us, as you'd imagine...but as Justin pointed out, if you're three games into a bonspiel and your main regret is that you just missed an 8-ender, you've done pretty well. And now we're in the semifinals!

Career game #189: Carolina Classic, 1st event semifinals
Saturday, August 4, 2012

End.................... 12345678 |TTL
Triangle (McCormick)... 0100000- | 01
Pittsburgh (Ashford)... 1011113- | 08

This team from Pittsburgh is good. Very good. They made last year's Classic final and lost on the final shot of the game. And I've played them before, at last year's Arena Club Championships, and they absolutely creamed us. (Not only that, but that ended up being our only loss of the weekend.)

This time? Well, we hung in there for a little while longer. But they were absolutely deadly with their take-outs, and the only way we could set something up was to try to draw around guards, which we struggled with. And when we missed a draw, they were able to immediately guard. And by the time Debbie's turn came up, she didn't have much to work with and was often left with some very difficult shots. She missed a raise take-out that would have given us two badly needed points in the 4th end, but if you're having to rely on raise take-outs to score points, then that means the other team is playing well.

And, there was this sequence of events in, I believe, the 5th end. On her first of two shots, Debbie made a nice draw behind guards to set up a potential two: (our team = yellow; there were other rocks in the house at this point, but they were irrelevant)

Looks good, but that rock was just behind the tee line, opening the door for the other Skip to put one right on top of it. I mean, it was perfect. That forced us to draw for one on our last shot, and I think we were heavy or something, and gave up another steal. (Debbie had a pretty funny reaction to the other Skip's shot: "Well, he out-drew us...jerk.")

So, now I'm 0-2 career against Team Ashford. Both times, the games weren't even close. And both times, it was my only loss of the weekend. Will I ever beat these guys? How many world champions would it take to beat them? Anyone have Kevin Martin's number?

Team Ashford did go on to win the Classic title, in a championship game that was even more of a blowout than our game against them was. As for us...we could still win the "bronze medal" of sorts, the 4th event.

Career game #190: Carolina Classic, 4th event final
Sunday, August 5, 2012

End.................... 12345678 |TTL
Potomac (Anderson)..... 2000101i | 04
Triangle (McCormick)... 0114030i | 09

Team Anderson was one of the better teams here, and they had a very tough "strength of schedule" at that (every team they played all weekend made the final draw). I'd be interested to see what would happen if we played them again (same lineups), because this game turned on two key moments that could have easily gone the other way and changed the game.

4th end: We were lying four with only last rock remaining, and their Skip was just a little bit too heavy, allowing us to steal four. I was surprised, but it happens to the best of us. Debbie was too heavy on her final draw in the 1st end, too, allowing a steal of two.

6th end: The luckiest shot of the weekend! (our team = yellow)

The call was, of course, to hit the red rock and score three. It looked good about of Debbie's hand, but halfway down the ice, it "picked" (dug into the ice a little bit) and went way offline and to the right. But then, it ended up hitting that yellow guard in front at just the right angle so that it went into the red rock and bumped it out anyway. A rock "picking" is bad luck, but the result was perhaps the greatest bit of good luck I've seen. Now...earlier, I wondered if Debbie had some of these "Plan B" shots worked out; this one, I know she didn't have worked out. That was just plain luck, and by putting us up 9-3 with two ends to go, that was pretty much that.

So, there you go. What does having Debbie McCormick on your team get you, in terms of results? In our case, instead of going, say, 2-2 (which I think is our most likely outcome if we didn't have Debbie), we went 4-1 and won the 4th event! Hooray! Amber and I also won the Carolina Classic 4th event back in 2009, obviously without a "hired gun" on our team, but the Classic field wasn't nearly as deep then as it is now.

We're curling again this weekend in Charlotte; preview on Thursday. In Charlotte, we might actually have to play against Debbie McCormick. (But probably not.)

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