Skip Mel Bernard calls a shot during weekend action in the provincial Legion curling championships at the Western Community Curling Club in Alberton. Eric McCarthy/Journal Pioneer
“It’s pretty important to us,” Bernard said Saturday night after dethroning defending provincial Legion curling champion Kevin Ellsworth from the St. Anthony’s Legion to regain the title he last won in 2011. “We’d like to curl in a national on P.E.I.”
Besides the national Legion championships, Bernard has been to several other national curling championships, including seniors, masters and mixed. He played in two senior nationals in Summerside.
“Those are the best ones, in your own province, so we were wanting to get this one,” he said shortly after the colour returned from a white-knuckle championship game.
Bernard led 3-2 after four ends, before Ellsworth took his only lead with a triple in the fifth end.
Bernard tied the game in the sixth, and went up 7-5 with steals in the eighth and ninth ends. That set the stage for a very technical 10th end, with Ellsworth doing everything possible to try to generate a deuce and force an extra end.
It was the kind of end that had just about everyone on the other side of the glass offering opinions on what the next shot should be. Bernard was lying one when Ellsworth took aim at a long double runback off of a pair of Summerside Legion guards with the hammer. He managed to advance one of his own stones in the house to shot position, but one was not enough and Bernard prevailed 7-6.
“It made it really interesting; probably the most interesting last ends I’ve ever played,” acknowledged Ellsworth, who curls on Bernard’s senior and Tankard teams. “So, right until the last shot was played, ‘Is it there? Is it not there?’”
Bernard noted it was a difficult game to play because the ice was tricky.
“The speed changed a little bit,” assessed Bernard, who offered praise to the Ellsworth rink. “These guys, they don’t miss too many shots, so we were fortunate to get through that. It was fun.”
“It’s pretty important to us. We’d like to curl in a national on P.E.I.” - Winning skip Mel Bernard
Other members of Bernard’s Legion rink are Blair Jay, Lou Nowlan and Earle Proude. They’ve all won provincial championships together before.
Ellsworth had the same team with him that won last year’s title – Blaine Hutt, David Bell and John Ellsworth.
“Half a shot here or there was the difference,” Ellsworth said in describing the two games his team played against the Bernard foursome. “They were worthy opponents. “We had two great games with them.”
Only four teams were entered in the double-knockout championship. Bernard scored an extra-end victory over Ellsworth in the A final on Friday. Ellsworth then dispatched Charlottetown Legion’s Matt Smith rink in the B semifinal on Saturday afternoon to set up the rematch with Bernard.
St. Anthony’s Legion, host of the Legion provincials for a second year in a row, now gets to host its first national Legion championship in March, also at the Western Community Curling Club.
Bernard said teams coming from other provinces are in for a good time.
“I’ve curled in every province in Canada, and this is the best club in Canada as far as hospitality,” he proclaimed.
Bernard added curlers will also get to play on “tremendously fast” ice.
“We’re not used to it that fast,” he said. “This is our favourite place to curl, Alberton,” Bernard continued. “They treat you just royally. They have food for you after each draw. People are just very friendly and welcoming. This is, I believe, the most welcoming club on the whole Island.”