After all, the Saskatoon skip has qualified for 11 Tankard events and had played on three previous Saskatchewan championship squads. But he admits his triumph in Shaunavon – after scoring a 7-6 win over the Brock Virtue rink of Regina on Sunday in the championship game – is probably his sweetest victory. “This is probably at the top, just because of how we had to work throughout the entire week,” he said shortly after lifting the Tankard trophy. Laycock played as a lead on Pat Simmons’ championship teams in 2007 & 2008 and called the game but shot third stones on Simmons’ provincial winner in 2011. However, this was the first of his provincial titles where he got to throw the last stones. “I think that makes it that much more special,” he stated. “This is the best we’ve played all year as a team,” he added with a smile. “And we couldn’t have picked a better time to do it.” The Laycock team – which also featured third Kirk Muyres, second Colton Flasch and lead Dallan Muyres – were in control of much of Sunday’s final, scoring three points in the third end for a 3-1 lead, although Virtue did knot the score at 3-3 after four ends of play. But Laycock scored a deuce just before the fifth end break, taking a 5-3 lead, and never looked back. The championship final took an unexpected turn after the eighth end when Virtue – the defending provincial champion – was ejected from the ice surface for unsportsmanlike conduct. Virtue snapped a broom after his final draw came up short and Laycock stole a single point. The Regina team had received a warning from officials after the sixth end for unsportsmanlike conduct. Trailing 7-3 and missing their skip, the Regina rink still had a little fight left in them as they scored a deuce of their own in the ninth to cut the deficit. The remaining trio even made things interesting in the 10th end as they buried a couple of stones behind a centre guard. Any hope of a comeback, though, was thwarted when Laycock’s third, Kirk Muyres, delivered a beautiful raise takeout to empty the house. Laycock sealed the win with a final rock takeout even though the Virtue rink stole a single to make the final score 7-6. It was the third meeting between Laycock and Virtue at the 2014 Tankard. The teams, who came into the event as the top two seeds, cruised through the A event without a loss. They faced off for the first time on Friday afternoon in the A final, which Laycock won 5-4 in an extra end. Virtue went on to capture the B event and the two teams met again in the first A-B playoff game Saturday night. This time it was Virtue who emerged as the winner, scoring an 8-6 win and earning a direct trip to the championship game. Virtue trailed early in that contest, falling behind 4-0 after just four ends of play. The momentum switched over two ends when Virtue stole two in the sixth and another three in the eighth. Laycock, meanwhile, was relegated to the semi-final game where he faced Jeff Hartung of Langenbug, the 2012 Saskatchewan mixed curling titleholder. It was no surprise to the see the Laycock, Virtue and Hartung rinks in the playoff round. For many observers, they were the top three teams all week. Hartung defeated another strong contender, Kevin Marsh of Saskatoon Nutana, 9-8 in the Three/Four playoff game on Saturday night to set up the meeting with Laycock. The Hartung rink, featuring skip Jeff and two of his sons Kody and Tyler, scored a single point with the hammer in the 11th end to secure the win over Marsh. The team also included lead Claire DeCook. Laycock and Hartung battled in the semi-final Sunday morning in what was arguably the most exciting game of the entire week. The match up was highlighted by some magnificent shotmaking. The seventh end was particularly brilliant, with players from both sides exchanging difficult raise takeouts, before Hartung got a point for a 4-3 lead. The Hartung crew appeared to be in control of the match after scoring a deuce in the ninth end – helped in a large part by a picked rock from Laycock – to take a 6-4 lead. The Langenburg team had a chance to secure the win with a double takeout in the final end, but missed, setting up a deuce for Laycock. Laycock stole the winning point in the first extra end after Cody Hartung, throwing skip rocks, wiffed on a relatively easy take-out with his final stone. “They played an unbelievable game,” said Laycock of the Hartung foursome. “There were four or five ends where it looked like we were dead, and somehow we were able to pull it out.” “It’s such a tough week – and there are so many good teams – that you need a few good breaks to go your way if you hope to win.”
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