Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Birchard wins by hair; off to nats

Takes junior women's provincials for chance to top last year's silver

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BRANDON -- A year ago, Nicole Sigvaldason didn't know if she would curl again.

Now the third and her teammates on Shannon Birchard's team from St. Vital are headed to the 2013 Canadian Junior Curling Championships in Fort McMurray, Alta., on Feb. 1-10.

Team Birchard won its second straight Canola Junior Women's Provincial Curling Championship on Monday edging the Selena Kaatz team, also from St. Vital 7-6 at the Brandon Curling Club.

It was fitting that the Birchard team won the nail-biter of a game by a fingernail on a measurement of Birchard's last rock.

"It means everything to me to win this, I've lost the final before (in 2010 with the Kate Cameron team) and I took last year off because I had knee surgery," said Sigvaldason, who had a torn meniscus repaired in her left knee. This is her last season as a junior. "I came back this year, it took a lot to get here, and I'm just so happy we were able to do it this year and go 9-0. Shannon played just phenomenal and I just can't thank her enough for making that last shot."

The junior men's final needed two extra ends to decide the 2013 provincial junior winner, as skip Matt Dunstone of West Kildonan drew to the button with his last rock in the 12th end to defeat Daniel Birchard of Pembina 8-7. Daniel is Shannon's older brother.

Dunstone and his team of third Colton Lott, second Daniel Grant, lead Brendan MacCuish and coach Scott Grant will join Shannon Birchard's team, who also includes second Sheyna Andries, lead Mariah Mondor and coach Bruce Birchard, at next month's nationals.

"A draw to the button to win, it's a great way to win. They (Team Kaatz) played so well, it was so close," said Shannon, whose team last year won silver at the Canadian championship. "It's the most amazing experience being there (at the nationals). To go back and potentially get further than we did last year, that would be a great opportunity."

Kaatz and her second Kristin MacCuish (Brendan's sister), who formed Team Kaatz this season, were members of Shannon Birchard's team last year.

The Dunstone junior men's team was up 7-6 after nine ends and had the hammer coming home but Daniel Birchard stole one to tie the game and force the extra ends.

"It's the biggest thing we've all ever won," said Dunstone, whose victory leap in the air was almost as good as his shot. "It means the world to me. My grandparents (Jim and Carol Dunstone) have done it (won a provincial and national mixed title) and I'm just following in the family footsteps."

In the Shannon Birchard-Kaatz game, Shannon had to make two other mammoth shots to keep her team in the game.

In the sixth end, she brought her team back from behind to lead 4-3 after scoring a deuce when she squeezed her shot between two guards to knock Kaatz's stone off the button. After Kaatz scored a deuce of her own in the seventh end, Shannon executed an angle run-back to score another come-from-behind deuce to lead 6-5 after eight. Kaatz was forced to draw for the tie in the ninth giving Birchard the hammer in the final end.

After the men's game, Dunstone said the two extra ends had everyone sweating on the ice.

"I'm glad it didn't go to a third or I probably just would have shook hands. Everyone was getting a little tired out here," he said, laughing. "We won a final against such a great team in (Daniel) Birchard."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 8, 2013 C4

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