Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Lukowich surprise champion

'Social team' wins 125th MCA Bonspiel

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Winnipeg's Mark Lukowich will return next month to the scene of his greatest curling triumph riding the high of a historic win at the MCA Bonspiel Monday evening.

With an 8-3 victory over Deer Lodge's Willie Lyburn in the final of the Asham main event at Deer Lodge, West Kildonan's Lukowich completed a remarkable undefeated run that began last Thursday to become the champion of the 125th MCA Bonspiel.

"I've never won a Grand Aggregate or Bonspiel championship before so that's huge for me. I didn't think I'd be able to reach that. So it means lots," said Lukowich.

"It really does. Throughout the bonspiel we were just plugging away, trying to take care of business. But now sitting back and thinking about things, yeah, it's huge. It's a good year to do it."

Major changes are almost certainly in store next year for the annual Winnipeg winter tradition, with one possibility even being floated of shutting it down entirely and making this year's 125th renewal the final MCA Bonspiel ever.

More likely, however, is a major revamping and a phoenix-like rise from the ashes for the MCA Bonspiel -- not entirely unlike the comeback Lukowich just pulled off over the last five days.

Best known as the 2002 Manitoba men's curling champion, Lukowich hasn't been curling in a serious way for several winters now and his current squad -- third Stu Gresham, second Chris Chimuk and lead Kevin Wiebe -- were formed two years ago as a recreational team.

But they got hot when it mattered during the past week, taking the bonspiel title and also earning a berth into next month's Manitoba men's curling championship in Neepawa.

That would be the same southwestern Manitoba town where Lukowich won his lone Manitoba men's title 11 years ago and while the circumstances are much different this year -- Lukowich won his title in a year in which curling's top teams boycotted the provincial playdowns -- there is something to be said for being the hottest team in Manitoba at the end of January.

"We're a work in progress. We're friends, we formed as a social team. Everyone plays their position and we're just doing the best we can," said Lukowich, who will be the only member of his team in Neepawa with prior provincials experience.

Lukowich beat an undermanned Lyburn team in the final. Lyburn third James Kirkness was away on business Monday and with no fifth man registered to play for his team, it was a Lyburn threesome who lost the final.

Lyburn said he wasn't taking any chances bringing in a spare for the final after Curl Manitoba overturned a victory by Brandon's Terry McNamee after McNamee used an unregistered spare -- none other than cashspieler extraordinaire Mike McEwen -- against Stonewall's Jared Kolomaya.

Both Kolomaya and McNamee already had their provincials berths anyway.

"With those other guys getting kicked out," Lyburn laughed, "we figured we better not bring anybody else in."

Undermanned and overwhelmed, Lyburn gave up threes to Lukowich in the fifth and seventh ends before conceding. "It would have been nice to have put the name on the trophy, for sure. It's something I've never done," said Lyburn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 22, 2013 C4

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