Sports Curling

‘The only thing we lack is the consistency, where we can lose to anybody, but still be able to beat anybody’ 0

By Stephen Sweet, Special to QMI Agency

John Epping, of the Donalda Curling Club in Don Mills, releases his stone during afternoon action at the Dominion Tankard at the Barrie Molson Centre, Thursday. J.T. MCVEIGH BARRIE EXAMINER

John Epping, of the Donalda Curling Club in Don Mills, releases his stone during afternoon action at the Dominion Tankard at the Barrie Molson Centre, Thursday. J.T. MCVEIGH BARRIE EXAMINER

There’s no question that Glenn Howard’s rink is still at the top of the curling world.

But if someone is going to knock him off at the 2013 Dominion Tankard, it will probably be Team Epping.

The youthful and talented rink has been playing against — and defeating — some of the best teams around on the World Curling Tour.

“Yeah, and I think that’s the thing,” said skip John Epping. “The only thing we lack is the consistency, where we can lose to anybody, but still be able to beat anybody.”

They’ll hope to have gotten the losing part out of the way, after falling to veteran Bryan Cochrane’s rink 7-2 on Thursday afternoon.

Even though this is one of the youngest teams in the event — second Scott Howard is 22, while lead David Mathers is just 21 — they’ve played enough to have some mileage under their belts.

“Our third Scott (Bailey) has been around a long time, and I’ve been playing in the men’s ranks for 10 years, so with the two young guys, we try to help them out as much as we can,” Epping said.

“But we’ve played so much on the World Curling Tour over the last two years that it really gives them experience when coming here,” Epping added. “It’s like another slam or another event where they can be on their game.”

Epping has become a familiar face on the curling circuit despite still being just 29 years old.

“I don’t know, it’s weird,” Epping said. “I’m not 30 yet, but I think they think of me as a bit more of a veteran, maybe because I’ve been around for so long.”

He doesn’t exactly feel like the old guy yet, especially on a squad with three guys under 30.

“I’d like to think that I still feel young,” Epping said. “I know the guys on the team keep me young, so that’s good.”

Last year was a difficult one for Team Epping in the sense that they were shocked in an upset and didn’t make it out of Zone 7 qualifying.

But that doesn’t mean that simply getting back to the provincial tournament is enough of a victory for Epping.

“We’re only here for one reason, and that’s to win,” Epping said. “We expect nothing but to win.

“We don’t expect to finish anything but first, and I think we’ve prepared hard, and we’ve prepared everybody and tried to show them what to expect this week.”

There’s no question as to who Team Epping is gunning for.

“It’s probably Glenn’s tournament to lose,” Epping said. “He’s still the top dog, Brier champion, world champion, but if they’re looking at anyone to take him down at the end of the week, it’s probably us.”

Given the fact that they have beaten the defending champions four times over the past two years (posting a 4-6 record), Epping’s rink has the credentials to make the case.

“We can beat the best, but then lose to the 500th(-ranked team) in the world,” Epping said. “We’re just going to have to get ourselves to Sunday and put ourselves in that position.”

With a tough last two days of round-robin play, Team Epping is looking to improve with its consistency, especially if it gets another shot at Team Howard, against whom it lost 6-4 on Wednesday night.

“You can’t have a miss, because Glenn will pounce, and they miss, you have to pounce,” Epping said. “We’ve just got to be consistent, have a little luck, and be flashy.

“Sometimes, you’ve got to make those big shots to win games.”

Team Epping is currently dealing with some health issues,

as Scott Howard missed action yesterday with a “lower-body injury”, and is considered day-to-day.

In his place, they brought in Greg Balsdon, who did not qualify for the Dominion Tankard this year but has plenty of provincial experience, having played in the event six times.

Team Epping will have their hands full, taking on Robert Rumfeldt on Friday at 2 p.m. before finishing up round-robin play against Pat Ferris at 7 p.m.

barrie.sports@sunmedia.ca

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