The current B.C. Men’s curling champions, Rick Sawatsky (Vernon, from left), Andrew Nerpin (Kelowna), Jim Cotter (Vernon) and Steve Laycock (Saskatoon), have announced they are returning for the 2020-21 season. (Black Press - file photo)

Vernon rink back to defend B.C. men’s curling title

Jim Cotter, Rick Sawatsky, Steve Laycock and Andrew Nerpin will seek a third straight championship

The reigning B.C. men’s curling champs will try to defend their title in 2021.

The Vernon-Kelowna-Saskatoon foursome of Jim Cotter (Vernon), Steve Laycock (Saskatoon), Andrew Nerpin (Kelowna) and Rick Sawatsky (Vernon-Kelowna) announced on its Facebook page that the team remains intact.

“We’re staying together but my plan is to play a little less than the other guys,” said Cotter Monday morning, Aug. 10. “Right now, we’re like everybody else, waiting to see what’s going to happen (with COVID).”

Cotter will throw fourth stones for the rink while Laycock returns as the skip. Sawatsky (lead) and Nerpin (second) remain as the front end.

The current lineup has won the last two provincial belairdirect championships, the 2020 title coming in Cranbrook with a 10-6 win over former World junior champion Tyler Tardi of Langley in the final.

That gave Cotter and Sawatsky their record-breaking ninth provincial Purple Heart championship, the most of any male curlers in B.C. history.

Cotter and Sawatsky have won eight of the last 10 provincial titles. Both were members of Bob Ursel’s Kelowna team that won in 2008.

At the 2020 Tim Hortons Brier Canadian men’s championship in Kingston, Ont., Team Cotter went 2-5, failing to advance to the playoff round.

It was the ninth Brier appearance for Cotter, Sawatsky and Laycock, who qualified for seven other championships out of his home province of Saskatchewan.

Cotter and Sawatsky lost the 2014 Brier final to Kevin Koe of Alberta in Cotter’s hometown of Kamloops, which will host the 2021 B.C. championships.

The 2021 Brier is slated for Kelowna.

The B.C. champs will have an automatic berth to the provincial finals in Kamloops.

“It’s definitely appealing, having the provincials in Kamloops,” smiled Cotter, who also coaches a women’s team from Japan, and competes in mixed doubles with his daughter Jaelyn. “And the Brier is slated for Kelowna. And here we sit, right in the middle of both in Vernon.”

Nerpin has been a part of the last three provincial championship squads. He threw second stones in 2018 for Kelowna’s Sean Geall, who defeated Cotter 9-7 in the B.C. final in Parksville.

READ MORE: Vernon rink rolling into Brier

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