When a Canadian team dropped out of the World Team Candlepin Bowling Tourney two weeks ago, Charlie Milan III wasn’t too worried about finding another team to replace it. One phone call later, he had a team of competitive bowlers from western Massachusetts led by captain Jason Gauthier.
The new team?
Two Weeks Notice.
“I always have teams waiting to compete in this. This team is a decent team. They’ll be fine,” said Milan, the tourney organizer and one of its founders.
The tourney alternates between Canada and Maine each year with this year’s event set for Milan’s Bangor-Brewer Bowling Lanes in Brewer.
The tourney is entering its 26th year and features the best candlepin bowlers from New England and the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Fourteen U.S. teams and 10 Canadian teams will be vying for a first-place prize of $10,000.
“This is the premier tourney in the whole candlepin game,” Milan said. “Everyone looks forward to it every year.”
Bowlers warm up for the tourney with a singles knockout match on Monday at 11 a.m. Team matches are then held at 9 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday with teams bowling three, three-string matches in two 12-team divisions until the playoff rounds begin on Friday.
Playoff winners advance to Saturday’s rounds of quarterfinals (9 a.m.), semifinals (noon) and final (3 p.m.)
Canadian teams have dominated the tourney in recent years and have won six of the last seven titles. Last year’s champ, A+/Fairlanes of Halifax, Nova Scotia, is back to defend its title, while MacLaughlin T&T of Halifax, which has won several recent tourneys, is also returning.
“The younger guys on Halifax AA can really throw the ball with a lot of power,” Milan said.
Milan expects the top U.S. teams to challenge the Canadians and said consistency is the key to bringing the title back to American soil.
“You need lots of spares and strikes and you need great team chemistry,” he said. “Usually you need four guys to bowl a 125 average or more or you don’t win.”
Milan expects his team, USA East, comprised of Maine and Massachusetts bowlers, to vie for the title. The team features Nate Nealey of Portland and past Maine singles champ Shawn Morrison of Brewer along with top Massachusetts bowlers Chris Sargent, Gary Carrington, Dave Goodwin and Brian Mayer.
Milan, who is 74, hopes to lend support to the team and bowl at least one match. He is a 24-time Maine singles champ and member of the Maine Sports Hall of Fame. He will be the only bowler to compete in all 26 tourneys.
Other teams who could compete for the world title include Crazy Train, Total Chaos, Team USA, the New Hampshire All-Stars and Fenway Painters.
Crazy Train features Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine bowlers, including Mark Smith of Lewiston, Mark Ricci, Richie Myrick and Dave Hodge.
Rockland’s Tim Matero, who bowled a 468 series in league play last week in Brewer, will lead Total Chaos along with Steve Renaud, junior and senior, Mark Gregory and Steve Badney, who like Milan is a member of the International Candlepin Bowling Association Hall of Fame.
The N.H. All-Stars will be paced by Mike Poulin, while Fenway Painters of Massachusetts features Skip Estabrook and Brian Feist.
Several teams from Maine will also be competing. They include: Downtown Jewelry and Engraving of Rockland, led by Eric Deanult and Richie Grass; Newport Entertainment Center with captain Scott Sirois; Colonial Lanes of Westbrook, with past Maine champ Jeff McLain; and Vacationland Lanes of Saco, featuring current Maine champ Brian Purdy and brothers Jeff and Scott LaPierre.
The Maine Heat, the last Maine team to win the tourney in 2002, will be competing again but with a new name, Hobbs’ Lucky Lanes. The team is led by Eben Hobbs, who owns Lucky Lanes in South Paris, along with Massachusetts bowler John Kalafas and Hampden’s Rodney Wells, who rolled a 140 string in league play in Brewer last week. Two of the Maine Heat members of the 2002 team, Chip Carson of Bangor and James Milan of Brewer — Charlie’s son — will also be competing for Lucky Lanes.
The tourney will be split into two divisions, Holiday Inn and Creative Digital Printing, with the two division champs receiving a first-round playoff bye.