MANITOBA’S top junior curlers pulled away from the pack at the provincial Canola Junior Championships on Sunday, with a critical round-robin game yet to play.
While there is a large possibility of tiebreaker games, at least two rinks can breathe just a little bit easier heading into their seventh and final roundrobin tilt at Portage Curling Club today. Shannon Birchard and Cole Peters became the first skips to clinch a playoff spot Sunday afternoon, as each team stretched its undefeated streak to six games, guaranteeing them either first or second place in their groups.
On the women’s side, defending champ Birchard survived a Sunday challenge from Stonewall’s Rebecca Lamb, taking it 10-8 in extra rocks. Trailing after eight ends, Birchard pulled out a three-point ninth to launch herself into the lead. Though Lamb tied it up, Birchard wielded the hammer in the extra frame to take the deuce and, with that, the game.
"We made a couple of mistakes throughout the game, and they’re a really good team so they kind of took it to us at those moments," Birchard said Sunday night. "She made a really nice shot on her last one. I had a bit of an angle raise to get hers out. But I think overall the end shaped up pretty well for us."
The win put the Birchard foursome at 6-0 atop their pool. That guarantees them a spot in the playoffs — all that’s left to be determined is whether they’ll get first place. Standing in their way is Assiniboine Memorial Curling Club’s Meagan Grenkow, who stood at 5-1 on Sunday night. The two teams face each other today in their final round-robin game.
"Right now, we just control our own destiny," Birchard said. "We’re only getting better from where we started. We were a little shaky at the beginning, and we’re only getting stronger as we go. Hopefully we can keep going tomorrow, and get first out of the pool."
Sixteen women’s teams and 16 men’s teams are competing in the bonspiel, which formally kicked off on Dec. 26. Each competition is divided into two round-robin groups of eight. The top two teams from each group make the playoffs, with first-place teams playing each other for a pass to the final.
On the men’s side, St. Vital skip Peters handed 2012 Manitoba champ Kyle Doering his first loss of the bonspiel, which clinched the undefeated Peters a playoff berth. The loss dropped Doering to 5-1 through six games. He faces Wildewood’s Colin Kurz rink this morning. If Doering wins that match, he will take his group’s second playoff spot.
At press time, eight men’s and eight women’s teams were playing their sixth game, with the top-ranked teams in tight battles to stay in play-off contention.