It's good to be back.
Mark Lukowich nabbed his first spot in the Safeway Championship since 2007 by downing Duluth's John Shuster 4-2 in the 125th MCA Bonspiel's 6 p.m. draw Sunday night.
The West Kildonan skip and his second-year team of third Stu Gresham, second Chris Chimuk, and lead Kevin Wiebe formed as a recreational team, but have sizzled at the right time.
The victory over Shuster, the U.S. skip at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, was the rink's seventh in as many tries this week. The win advanced the team to today's Asham event final against Deer Lodge's William Lyburn, who knocked off Stonewall's Jared Kolomaya 6-5.
Lyburn already has a spot at provincials locked up through a Manitoba Curling Tour points berth, leaving the final three slots to be determined today.
Lukowich is the only team member with provincial experience, but he feels the way his foursome is rolling, it can make some noise in Neepawa from Feb. 6-10.
"A game like this, I'm churning inside, but I use it for positive results," he said. "Confidence is there, and I just want to help my team.
"The way we're playing, we can compete right now. We're all playing our positions well and we're going to feel comfortable."
Lukowich is no stranger to big games, as he took a rink to the Brier in Calgary in 2002, posting a 6-5 record to finish tied for fifth and just out of the playoffs.
After taking some time off to start a family and take care of career commitments, Lukowich started entering zone competitions three years ago. He doesn't officially consider himself back onto the competitive curling scene, but the rink has gradually seen more success, winning the thecurler.com event at last year's MCA Bonspiel and continuing to come together from there.
Lukowich stressed he got back into the game to play alongside Gresham and Chimuk, friends he's known over 25 years.
"If I was going to curl, I wanted it to be on a social level. I wanted to have fun when I was curling," he said. "I didn't want to be on a team that would have animosity about who's playing what positions."
The rink has tended to avoid bonspiels, as Lukowich said his team's major competition currently comes from within its home club, where the foursome plays once a week and is challenged each game.
-- special to the Free Press