YORKTON - When the 2023 Tim Horton’s Brier kicks-off March 3, a new face will be carrying Saskatchewan’s colours.
While a familiar face on curling ice in Saskatchewan the rink of skip Kelly Knapp, lead Trent Knapp, second Mike Armstrong, third Brennen Jones are making their debut as a foursome at the national championships.
The Knapp rink earned a trip to the Tankard with their recent provincial win in Estevan at the 2023 SaskTel Tankard.
Knapp defeated Steve Laycock’s, (formally of Saltcoats), rink 5-4 to claim the provincial title.
“We were feeling really good going in,” said Kelly Knapp, adding he has felt his own game as skip has come a long way this season.
“I think for me . . . getting that first year of skip under my belt last year was big.”
The national stage will be new for the Knapp team as a unit, and their skip knows that will mean some adapting on the fly.
“We know it’s going to be a bit of a building process,” he offered, adding get a win early in the event will be huge “to get a bit more confidence.”
As it happens the first game they play in the Ontario city will be against Manitoba champ Matt Dunstone who has represented Saskatchewan in the past.
Knapp said they are aware Dunstone will be one of the top teams going in . . . We know it’s going to be a challenging start for us.”
Knapp said in the opening game he isn’t suggesting a win is a must, but having a good game is.
“We want to put forward a really strong performance,” he said.
Ultimately Knapp, whose rink in based out of Regina, said they need to be at the top of their game at the Tankard.
“We’re going to have to play our best . . . It’s definitely going to take a full team effort to come out on top,” he said, adding when they do that they can compete with anybody. “We do feel when we’re at our best, we’re making most of our shots.”
That top game has been showing of late, said Knapp.
“Each one of us is shooting very well now,” he said. “. . . Of course it’s going to be a new experience for us.”
That said the Tankard field is loaded with familiar names with resumes filled with success; Brad Gushue, Kevin Koe, Brendan Bottcher and Dunstone to name a few.
“We aren’t going to be intimidated by anyone,” assured Knapp, but it will also be something they need to be ready for.
In fact, Knapp said they need to be ready to focus on every team they face.
“There are no games that you can take lightly at the Brier,” he said, adding they need to “be focused and prepared . . .
“I think we’re just going to take it game-by-game.”
There is also an entire province of curling fans desperately wanting a win given a Saskatchewan rink hasn’t won the Brier since 1980.
“I think there certainly is pressure,” said Knapp, adding he appreciates the passion of Saskatchewan fans for the game, and their desire for a win.
Knapp said recent success with Dunstone being close makes the desire to see a win keener too.
“I think Saskatchewan fans are feeling a little more anxious knowing how close we’ve been,” he said.
The 2023 edition of the Canadian men’s curling championship goes March 3-12 in London, Ont.