Mary-Anne Arsenault wants to get her hands on the B.C. curling crown.
Team Brown, which is wearing it, launched its retention campaign last weekend with a gold-medal finish at the Sunset Ranch Kelowna Double Cash, dispatching Team Arsenault 10-7 in the championship game of the B.C. Curling Tour event.
“It’s always nice to play the teams we’re going to be facing at provincials and to get early wins against them is never a bad thing, but it’s really who shows up in January for provincials — that’s the main thing,” said Corryn Brown, who skips the Kamloops Curling Club quartet.
Arsenault, a five-time Canadian champion and two-time world champion, last saw Brown in February at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Moose Jaw.
Brown, lead Ashley Klymchuk, second Dezaray Hawes and third Erin Pincott edged Arsenault-skipped Nova Scotia 5-4 to reach the Championship Pool, a tiebreaker victory that appeared to end the veteran’s illustrious competitive career.
Retirement discussion has been tabled.
The 52-year-old Arsenault (who vanquished Brown 10-4 in round-robin action at the Scotties in February) moved to Lake Country from Halifax and formed a team that includes three world and national titelists — Jeanna Schraeder, Sasha Carter and Renee Simons, who are Kelly Scott’s former teammates.
“When you look at the resume of the people on that team, it’s undeniable the experience they have,” Brown said. “They definitely will not be a slouch. A lot of people have to bring their A-game against them to have a chance.”
Arsenault’s group instantly joined Sarah Wark of Abbotsford as top contenders for Brown’s B.C. title.
Wark bumped Brown in the final to claim the 2019 provincial championship before relinquishing it to the Kamloops-based crew earlier this year.
"I think we'll rank right up there with them," Arsenault told the Canadian Press in October. "There's definitely a few strong teams around B.C. and we'll have our hands full.”
Brown, Arsenault and Wark each posted 2-1 records in pool play last week in the Little Apple.
The semifinal round saw Brown earn a 7-5 victory over Wark, who was unable to avenge a heartbreaking 8-7 extra ends defeat to the KCC ladies in the 2020 B.C. final in Cranbrook.
“We pretty much felt like we had control the whole game,” Brown said of the semifinal triumph on Sunday. “There were some times where we gave up a deuce where we shouldn’t have or gave up a steal to put them ahead, but we never felt like we were out of control.”
Arsenault walloped Cheryl Bernard of Calgary 8-2 to reach the final.
“It had its ups and downs,” Brown said of the title tilt on Sunday. “Giving up four in six obviously wasn’t ideal. Thankfully, we had a three-point lead at that point and were able to bounce back with a deuce in seven.”
A deuce in eight sealed the deal and the winners’ cheque for $2,900.
The men’s and women’s B.C. curling championships are scheduled to run from Jan. 26 to Feb. 1 on the Olympic ice at McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre.
Team Brown, which has already qualified for provincials based on its standing as defending champion, will return to action this week in Okotoks, Alta.
The event, one of only a handful remaining on a schedule ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, will feature a few of the top teams in the country, including Rachel Homan, Jennifer Jones, Laura Walker, Kelsey Rocque and Kerri Einarson.
First place comes along with a cheque for $4,000, second for $2,500, third and fourth for $1,000 and $500 for reaching the quarter-finals.
Some teams, including the Brown rink, are adjusting to playing with masks on, along with adapting to the one-sweeper rule.
The defending B.C. champs are also tasked with redeveloping chemistry with an old teammate.
Klymchuk, who gave birth to twins in September, vacated her lead position on the Brown rink and was replaced by Samantha Fisher, an original member of the team who quit to pursue education following the 2017-2018 season.
Fisher, Brown and Pincott have been playing in the Kamloops men’s league on Mac Isle, but the Kelowna tournament was their first real pressure test of the 2020-2021 season.
“We can throw as many rocks as we want in practise and fine-tune our deliveries and what not, but those games, you can’t beat them, especially playing good teams and getting to gel as a team,” Fisher said.
“I was nervous going in. Can I get back to where I was two years ago when I left the game? The girls were so awesome for me and it felt like riding a bike.”
Only a few more tune-ups remain before provincials.