Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

It's school before curling

But Carruthers thinks rink can make grade at the Safeway

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THE euphoria and awe, at age 22, of playing and losing to former world champion Jeff Stoughton in the Manitoba men's curling championship final in 2006 is behind Reid Carruthers now.

Barely 24, and with a new crew of like-minded curlers who can't make the roaring game their No. 1 priority, Carruthers has put finishing his education degree ahead of playing every weekend in every big bonspiel.

Still, Carruthers says his team will be anything but a non-factor in this week's Winnipeg men's zones curling playdowns and (assuming he makes it) at the Safeway Championship men's provincial final next month in Selkirk.

"We're in a pretty good spot," he said Thursday before he and his team of third Dan Kammerlock, second Derek Samagalski and lead Shane Kilgallen beat Rob Cosens 7-2 at Elmwood Curling Club.

"We have a great opportunity ahead of us right now... As long as we play well, I think we'll have a shot. I don't feel pressure at all. There's probably five or six really solid teams in Manitoba that could win a provincial final on a regular basis.

"I think our team is one of those teams that could contend for the championship."

But after making such a huge splash in 2006 as a fuzzy-faced kid coming out of junior, Carruthers has pulled back from the competitive scene in order to finish his education degree.

He's changed his team, adding Kammerlock, who's another education student and former Kerry Burtnyk third. He hooked up with former teammate Samagalski, and Kilgallen, who left Randy Dutiaume's team over the summer after his wife had a child.

It's a team of elite curlers who don't have the time to train and play regularly with the rest of the elite, including Stoughton, Burtnyk and Manitoba Curling Tour champion Mike McEwen.

Carruthers is substitute-teaching and going to school twice a week to get his degree, then curling when he can. He has a spot in the BDO Classic at MTS Centre Jan. 21-25, the 16th of 18 seeded teams.

Carruthers said McEwen, the other young team that is considered among the best young foursomes in Manitoba, has taken a different route by playing in most bonspiels and practising far more than his team has.

He considers McEwen part of a new Big Three in Manitoba, along with Burtnyk and Stoughton. Still, he doesn't feel any pressure to take the same route as McEwen's team. In fact, it seems certain he won't, especially once he gets a full-time teaching job.

"The Safeway Championship, it's one big bonspiel," he said.

"And it comes down to who gets hot at the moment. I think over the course of a season, McEwen's team and Stoughton's team or Burtnyk's team, yeah, they're going to be more successful than the teams that don't practise quite as much.

"But when it comes down to playing one bonspiel for one goal -- and that's to win -- I think it just comes down to who plays best in that event. And even though we're not playing quite as much, I wouldn't say we don't have a chance."

How the games turned out

Thursday's 5:45 p.m. draw in the Winnipeg men's zones:

Dave Elias 8 Scott Madams 3
Reid Carruthers 7 Rob Cosens 2
Rick Lemoine 9 Jamie Hay 6
Jim Coleman 8 Brian Melnyk 7
Ken Ringaert 10 Dave Watt 9

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 9, 2009 C3

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