Samagalski up to the challenge

Veteran second slides into third with Team Carruthers at Brier


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Derek Samagalski is in unfamiliar territory.

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Derek Samagalski is in unfamiliar territory.

A career front-end player, Samagalski now finds himself playing third for Wild Card no. 2’s Reid Carruthers at this week’s Brier in London, Ont.

Samagalski started the season at second, but everything changed in December when the team parted ways with third Jason Gunnlaugson.

They closed out the year as a three-man unit with Carruthers, Samagalski, and Connor Njegovan before picking up Rob Gordon to play lead for men’s curling nationals. Gordon’s addition bumped Njegovan to second, and Samagalski to third.

“It’s unfortunate, with Jay not playing with us anymore, it made it really tough. We had a four-year plan with what we thought was four guys that would be really committed and unfortunately it didn’t work out,” said Samagalski, a 38-year-old from Carberry playing in his eighth Brier.

“It’s just made it a little tougher because now we’re playing new positions. I don’t think Connor has played second in years, and with me playing third, I don’t even know the last time I’ve played third. It’s a little bit different, but I mean, we’re all here having fun and trying to make the most of it.”

To Samagalski’s credit, he looks right at home in his new position. In Monday morning’s draw against Alberta’s Kevin Koe, Samagalski, made a brilliant quadruple takeout in the sixth end which led to a crucial two points for Carruthers.

Despite Samagalski’s efforts, Carruthers lost 9-7 in an extra end to drop to 2-2. Koe (4-0) and Team Manitoba’s Matt Dunstone (3-0) sit on top of Pool A. Pool B is topped by Brendan Bottcher (4-0).

The top three teams from the two nine-team pools advance to the playoffs.

Carruthers coughed up a four-ender to Koe in the third and couldn’t overcome it.

“That was probably the best shot I’ve made in my life. I was thinking back and talking with some of my buddies that messaged me and how many hundreds of thousands of rocks have I thrown in my life and I don’t think I’ve thrown a rock that worked out as good as that one did,” said Samagalski.

“There was a lot of big shots made by both teams, but we were just a little off in that one end and good teams are going to make you pay.”

Through four games, Samagalski is curling him at 83 per cent which puts him right in the middle of all thirds at the 18-team event.

“When people see you play lead on a curling team, they just think you’re OK at curling and you’re not a great curler. They just think they hide the lower calibre guys at lead, which is totally not true. I mean, some of the best curlers in the world can play lead, second, third, or skip. It’s just finding a position you’re comfortable with,” said Samagalski, who’s been teammates with Carruthers since 2014.

“I’ve played front-end my whole life, and we were looking for guys that would fit our team at the Brier and Rob was our first choice that we wanted. We wanted to find a guy that could sweep, which was good, and when Reid said I had to play third, I was up for the challenge. And with Connor playing second, he’s up for the challenge and we’ve done pretty well so far.”

To stay in the playoff hunt, Carruthers and Co. desperately need a win over Dunstone tonight at 5 p.m. CT. Dunstone cruised to a 10-4 win over Jamie Koe of the Northwest Territories on Monday afternoon.

Dunstone beat Carruthers 8-7 in this year’s provincial final. They also met in the PointsBet Invitational championship game in September — before Gunnlaugson left — and Carruthers came away with an 8-4 win to bring home a cheque for $50,000.

“It’s not only Dunstone left, we still have some really tough games, but we can’t look too far ahead,” said Carruthers.

“We get a nice little rest here, we had a good meeting post-game, and we know we’ll have to be sharp to beat Dunstone.”

With it being a battle of Manitoba, the stakes Tuesday night feel even higher.

“We know playing Manitoba it’s going to be a little more amped up. I’m sure both teams circled this one on the calendar in the round robin and would love to win this game,” said Samagalski.

“We’re gonna be fired up. We’re gonna take it shot by shot and hopefully come out firing.”

Twitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen

Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of...


Updated on Monday, March 6, 2023 8:17 PM CST: Fixes typo in deck

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