Rookies boost Tuck team

By Brian Smiley, Brantford Expositor

Wayne Tuck and Chad Allen are on their way back to the Men's Recharge with Milk Tankard with a team that looks a lot different than past ones.

Tuck, 40, skips the curling team out of the Brantford Golf and Country Club. Allen, 42, plays vice.

"We're really excited," said Tuck.

"Chad and I have been around for many, many years and anytime you can make it to the men's provincials it feels great. It feels a little different this year. We have two rookies who just came out of junior so it's real special for them."

Tuck and Allen, who have curled together for most of the past 15 years, are the veterans on the team that will challenge for a provincial championship at the Cobourg Community Centre from Jan. 29 to Feb. 5. They have more than 10 combined appearances at the Tankard but no title. Joining them are first-timers Matt Pretty at lead and Kurt Armstrong at second.

Pretty and Armstrong were members of the 2015 Ontario junior championship team out of Belleville's Quinte Curling Club. They hooked up with their new team thanks to a friend of Tuck's at the Ilderton Curling Club in Ilderton

"We knew we were looking for a front end," said Tuck. "I got in contact with Matt, who was playing for Fanshawe College. I met with him for lunch and discussed this year. He said he was excited.

"It was better that we got a package deal. Anytime you're a junior coming straight into men's, you feel lost. Bringing Kurt along, it was a little more comfortable, relaxed feeling having both of them on the team."

It didn't take long for Tuck and Allen to sense that this season could be special.

"This year has been a completely different feeling for Chad and I," said Tuck. "We even commented on it at our second spiel. We've never had sweepers like we've had this year. Kurt and Matt are just unbelievable sweepers. They've made more shots for Chad and I than not."

Tuck said the team broke even during the cash season but he wasn't around for a good chunk of it because he also plays mixed with his wife, Kim. The pair competed at the Canadian Mixed Championships in Nova Scotia in November, going undefeated through preliminary play before being upset in the semifinals. They eventually captured bronze.

Through the cash season, the team successfully used three alternates. Tuck said he felt some pressure when he rejoined the team for the Nissan Classic last month in Brantford.

"The guys won about $6-$7,000 when I wasn't playing and we had a spare. And, when I was playing, we didn't win anything," he said.

"Coming into the Nissan in December I was like, 'Geez, I think my job is on the line. We definitely need to qualify.'"

With Tuck back at skip, the team made it through the first Tankard qualifier in Chatham in December, earning a berth at the provincial qualifier in Niagara Falls last weekend.

After beating Brent Gray 8-4, Chris Gardner 7-6 and Dale Kelly 10-8, Tuck and company faced Mark Bice in the 'A' side final. Tuck lost 9-2.

"It wasn't that we played bad, it was the angles that didn't line up for us," noted Tuck.

"In the end, he made a great shot for six."

The rink then went to a 'B' side final where it beat Pat Ferris 9-3 to qualify for the provincials.

Heading to the Tankard, Tuck is confident. The BGCC squad knows that teams such as Glenn Howard, John Epping, Greg Balsdon, Dayna Deruelle and Bice will be hard to beat.

"I think we've played most of the field this year and we're maybe 50-50 with them," Tuck said. "There were a bunch of games we lost that we should have won."

Winning an Ontario title would send the Tuck team to vie for a national championship at the Tim Hortons Brier in St. John's, N.L., from March 4 to 12.

"You see it on TV and you want to get there," Tuck said.

"It would be huge. It doesn't matter how old I get, it's going to be a No. 1 dream to get to the Brier."