Team Bottcher gains new insights at PointsBet Invitational
Ben Hibbert and Mark Kennedy aren’t the oldest players at the 2023 PointsBet Invitational, but they aren’t the youngest either.
They’ve won the Briers together, the World Championships together, and an Olympic gold medal together, and undoubtedly belong on any list of the best curlers ever in the rich history of the sport.
But today, closer to the end of their competitive career than the beginning, they still find themselves eager to learn, eager to hear about new ways to approach the sport and solve the puzzles that curling presents to high-performing players.
That’s why when rumors started circulating that David Murdoch might be on his way to Canada to become Director of High Performance at Curling Canada, Hibbert (captain) and Kennedy (deputy skip), along with fellow skips Brendan Butcher and second team Brett Gallant, were the team’s coach Paul Webster is keen to pick the brain of the Scottish legend.
“Well, I think his resume speaks for itself,” Hibbert said, moments after Butcher’s team delivered a 7-1 win over Jacob Dobson and the Humber College Hawks of Toronto on Thursday night in a Sweep 16 match at the 16 Mile Sports Complex in Oakville, Ont. . . “I was able to see it from two different lenses; I knew Dave the player, I knew he was a really good competitor, and honestly, we got along great. It’s very similar to what happened with (former Curling Canada high performance director Jerry Beckham, who retired after last season). Everyone loved Jerry, right? But I think bringing in some different ideas will help. We are veterans, you know; He’s not going to come and tell us exactly how to do things. But I think giving us some extra tools in our toolbox would be great.
Butcher’s team arrived at Oakville seeded second in the 16-team field, while Dobson’s team, which won the Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Association title last season, was seeded 15th.
So the end result was no surprise. However, Butcher’s team, having spent a few months learning from Murdoch and his high-performance coaching staff, looked as focused as could be in the Montana Brier final. Murdoch’s message was that preparation and focus in September would lead to success in March.
“I think he came in with the right character and the right attitude and attitude,” Kennedy said. “He doesn’t shove things down anyone’s throat.
“I think, from an older standpoint, I love the impact he’s going to have on younger athletes. He’s going to take some of those younger athletes and make them the best they can be. And that’s exactly what we need as us older guys start working our way out the door.”
Butcher’s team was at its best, hitting singles in the second and third ends, followed by a stolen tying run in the fourth. Dobson’s team got on the board with one point in the fifth, but Bottcher’s team took a five-point lead with two more in the sixth and never looked back.
Murdoch was in on the action at the PointsBet Invitational, keeping a close eye on the array of talent on display, including wary veterans like Hibbert and Kennedy, as well as youngsters, like the Dobson College team, and even those somewhere in the mix. In the middle, like Butcher.
“It was a great first game for us, but we’re trying to do all the little things right,” said Butcher, who will play 10th-seeded Mike McEwen of Saskatoon in the Elite 8 tournament on Friday at 4:30. PM (all times ET). “I think we do a good job of focusing on the process. And when we do that, we win more often than not, so I think we’re building as you say toward some big things at the end of the year, and hopefully we can accomplish more here this week.”
In other action Thursday, McEwen’s team stole three in the sixth end and cruised to an 11-5 win over No. 7 teammate Aaron Sluszynski of Airdrie, Alta. An early three in the second end propelled Team No. 3 Matt Dunston of Winnipeg to a 10-5 win over Team No. 14 Sam Muybrook (Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ont., 2023 U SPORTS Champions); Sixth-seeded Carsten Storme of Edmonton opened a tight game with five in the seventh end in an 8-4 win over No. 11 Glenn Howard of Penetanguishene, Ont.
The 2023 PointsBet Invitational continues Friday with drawings at 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
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This story will be available in French as soon as possible at www.curling.ca/2023pointsbetinvitational/nouvelles/?lang=fr