ST JOHN'S — Curling fans from Nova Scotia have reason to cheer again during the men's curling championship.
After being eliminated in the previous two Brier pre-qualifier events, the team out of the Halifax Curling Club earned its way into the championship after defeating Yukon Saturday afternoon in St. John's.
"It feels great," said Nova Scotia skip Jamie Murphy. "I feel for those guys though because we went through that last year and I know it's not going to be easy for them."
Murphy's rink lost the Brier pre-qualifying final one year ago to the Northwest Territories. They weren't going to be denied this year though. After going unbeaten during the round robin part of the pre-qualifying event, Nova Scotia then cruised to an easy 9-6 victory over the Yukon.
"Our goal was getting through and now we can start playing our first game I guess," said Murphy.
This is the last year for the pre-qualifying format. Next year's Brier will feature 16 teams.
"We didn't like when that format came about," Murphy said. "I don't know if they've switched to the right solution."
Long road back to the Brier for Nova Scotia
Murphy is the last skip to have thrown a rock for Nova Scotia at the yearly men's curling championship. That appearance came back in 2014 in Kamloops, B.C. It was a championship to forget for Murphy and his crew who ended up losing every single game.
Now with the bonspiel on the East Coast of Canada Murphy says he's hoping it translates to some Nova Scotia love.
"Being an East-Coaster we're going to feel that energy too," said Murphy. "We feel a lot of support out there. The roars have been great from the fans who want us back in this thing."
Fatigue a factor
Nova Scotia has already played four more games than the rest of the field. The team was back on the ice for its first game in the Brier less than two hours after making it into the event. Murphy knows that could be a factor.
"It's going to be difficult. I'm not quite in as good of shape as some of these other guys here," Murphy said. "It's going to be a long week but I'd rather it be that way than not."
Nova Scotia hasn't won a Brier championship since 2004 when the team skipped by Mark Dacey beat Alberta's Randy Ferbey in Saskatoon.
Murphy wants to change that, now a part of the 12-team field all vying for this year's men's Canadian curling title.
"We play this game for a few different reasons than what the top teams do," Murphy said. "Just to be here and be part of the event is a pretty cool feeling. The energy is unreal."
The championship game will be played at the Mile One Centre in St. John's on Sunday, Mar. 13.