GIMLI -- Peterfield's Tanner Lott was a winner in his first game at the Manitoba junior men's provincial curling championship Thursday, cracking a four-ender en route to an 8-3 victory over Dauphin's Cory Toews.
Not much interesting there.
But what is interesting, what makes Lott stand out here this weekend among the 16 teams competing to represent Manitoba at next month's Canadian Juniors, is the hair-raising route the 18-year-old took to get here.
It was a route that at one point last month had Lott hanging upside down in the seat of his 1989 Nissan pick-up, suspended in mid-air by his seatbelt as the cold winter air rushed in through the shattered driver-side windows.
That is not the generally recommended way to travel to a qualifying game for a provincial championship and yet that is exactly the predicament Lott found himself on Dec. 29 when he spun out on Highway 8 while driving to the game that ultimately qualified his team for this weekend's provincials.
En route from his home in Sandy Hook to the Assiniboine Memorial Curling Club, Lott lost control of his truck just north of the Perimeter Highway, spun and then rolled into the ditch.
How many times he rolled he still isn't sure. "It was a few -- two-and-a-half maybe," Lott, an icemaker in Petersfield, recalled Thursday. "All I know for sure is we rolled a few times and when we stopped, the truck was on its roof and we were hanging upside down."
Miraculously, the two occupants of the truck were mostly OK -- Lott was bleeding from several small cuts on his head and his 15-year-old brother, Colton, also had some minor injuries.
The brothers eventually managed to free themselves and climb out. By this point several passers-by had stopped and summoned emergency services vehicles.
"Police, fire truck, ambulance -- they all showed up," recalls Lott.
But with his team already short-handed for their game that morning -- Lott's third, Tyler Envik, had to work -- the only ride Lott was interested in was to the curling club.
Emergency services workers had other ideas. "They wanted to take me to the hospital to get checked out," said Lott. "But I told them I had to curl."
So as brother Colton was loaded into an ambulance for a precautionary trip to Seven Oaks Hospital, Tanner Lott was given some waivers to sign so emergency workers could release him and then hopped into a vehicle with his father, who had been about a half hour behind his two sons on the same route.
The two drove directly to Assiniboine Memorial, arriving 20 minutes late for Lott's Christmas Bonspiel game. Had they been another 10 minutes later, the rules stipulate that Lott would have had to forfeit the game and likely would not be curling this weekend.
Instead, Lott was penalized two points and his three-man team had to start the game without hammer, already down 2-0 and with a skip that was admittedly a bit distracted.
"It really was one of those life flashes before your eyes moments," Lott recalled.
So how'd it turn out? The fact you're reading this at all spoils the ending. "We stole two, three, two, one -- and that's how the game ended. We won," Lott said with a laugh. "Everyone played really, really well."
The news was all good -- the victory locked up the team's provincials berth and Colton Lott was released from hospital later that day.
The younger Lott is also curling here this weekend, as third for West Kildonan's Kyle Doering.
Tanner Lott has curled at the provincial juniors once before -- back in 2008 when he lost the 3 vs. 4 game as third for Steen Sigurdson.
Lott thinks his team this year -- Envik, 18, second Wade Ford, 16, and lead Chris Sigurdson, 18 -- might just have a shot to win it all in the provincial final this Monday. "I don't want to sound over-confident or anything," he says, "but I just have this sort of feeling about it."
A brush with death will do that for you.
LOOSE HAIRS -- Defending provincial champion Breanne Meakin is 2-0 at the Manitoba junior women's provincial championship at Victoria Curling Club. Meakin defeated La Salle's Kayla Curtis 6-2 and Brandon's Kaylee McNamee 6-4 on opening day Thursday. Fourth seed Katie Spencer of East St. Paul is also 2-0 heading into today.
Bonspiel numbers down
ENTRY numbers for the MCA Bonspiel are down again this year.
A total of 386 teams had signed up by the entry deadline Thursday -- down 24 teams from the 410 that participated last year.
MCA executive director Shane Ray wondered if the entry deadline falling close to Christmas might have contributed to the shortfall.
Among the teams entered this month are a rink that will include Russian exile Jason Gunnlaugson, skipping a team that will include curling entrepreneur Arnold Asham and longtime former Jeff Stoughton second, Garry Vandenberghe.
The team will not be eligible for one of the berths into next month's provincial men's championship up for grabs at the MCA Bonspiel because Vandenberghe is a B.C. resident.
Gunnlaugson won the 2010 Russian men's curling championship last November but was fired as skip of that country's national team before he had a chance to represent them internationally.
This year's MCA Bonspiel runs Jan. 20-24.