Kevin Larson could barely keep from dancing a jig Monday afternoon after defeating Ron Toews of Fort Rouge 6-4 in the semifinal of the Free Press event at the 122nd MCA Bonspiel.
The victory solidified a berth at the Safeway Provincial championship, Feb. 10-14 in Steinbach for Larson and his Springfield rink of third Garth Light, second Greg Scott and lead Joerge Arnold.
Winning the Free Press championship would have been the icing on the cake, but that little treat went to Randy Dutiaume's West Kildonan foursome of third Andy Stewart, second Greg Melnichuk, and lead Cory Wolchuk.
Dutiaume, who already had a berth via the zones, scored two in the fifth and stole three in the sixth to earn an 8-2 win over Larson in the final to claim that for his sweet tooth.
"We didn't even have to play this one (the semifinal)," said Larson, pointing out that the Toews foursome were ineligible to win a berth since they didn't have Canadian Curling Association cards. "We came out here, and we were relaxed. We got the carrot that we wanted. It's all fun and games now."
Dutiaume said the bonspiel was a great opportunity to prepare for Steinbach. "For sure. It's a good test, and a bit of a grind. It's not like it used to be, but its pretty darn close."
Dutiaume says he has a good feeling about the provincials. "The boys are playing really good right now, which is a good sign because when we won in 2005, we actually played really well at the Select (as the provincials were known then). If we continue playing like we did in the MCA here, we'll do really well in Steinbach."
Other berths decided Monday afternoon went to West Kildonan's Doug Riach and Andrew Irving of the Heather.
Riach claimed his through the Sports Manitoba main event, even though he was beaten Sunday by Pembina's Dave Kraichy, who already had a berth. Two berths are awarded in the Sports Manitoba event, with David Hamblin picking up his on Sunday.
Hamblin beat Kraichy 6-5 to win the Sports Manitoba final Monday night, and Mark Olson (Granite) won the other major event, the Safeway-Lucerne, with a 7-3 decision over Derek Dowsett (Stonewall).
All Irving needed to do was make it to the quarter-final of the Safeway-Lucerne event to grab his berth. The other quarter-finalists, Ken Tresoor (unaffiliated), Olson and Dowsett, don't have CCA cards either.
"We don't play a lot of competitive curling anymore," said Larson. "None of us do, we've got two separate club teams here that we joined together. I play with Joerge and Garth and Greg play together with their own team.
"We tried it last year and we played terribly, but we figured we'd give it another shot. We got a little bit of fire going in the zones, so we thought we'd go into this."
Larson and his squad are no strangers to provincial competition. "This is my third Safeway," said Larson. "My last was 2006, but the time before that was '86. For Joerge, this is his second time. He was there with me in 2006. Garth and Greg have been there four or five times."
One more berth was being played for on the Monday night 9 p.m. draw between Jim Kirkness (Fort Rouge) and Dave Johnson (Pembina).
In other event finals last night: James Hay (Granite) beat Winston Warren (Fort Rouge) 5-0 to take the Chas. Fidler and Son title; Mark Blanchard (Fort Rouge) won the Manitoba Pork Council championship by defeating Adam Boge (West Kildonan) 7-4; Tanner Lott (W. St. Paul) edged Brent McCannell (Wildewood) 7-6 for the Bituminex Paving trophy; Dave Watt (W. St. Paul) beat Kelly Williamson (Thistle) 7-2 to win thecurler.com final; the LaFarge Construction event went to Greg Malanchuk (Fort Rouge), who beat Howard Doerksen (Pembina); the Great West Life went to A.J. Hunter (Fort Garry) with a 6-4 win over Bill Burkett (Victoria); David Kendall (Wildewood) won the Monsanto Canada with an 8-5 decision over Bryan Novak (Argyle); Drew Knox (Elmwood) beat Glenn McLachlan (West Kildonan) 8-5 to win the Canada's Web Shop event; Heather's Wayne Ewasko defeated Errol Klinck (Assiniboine) 6-5 in the Manitoba Hydro final; and Justin Reynolds (Thistle) won the 8-ender event 7-6 over Jim MacGregor (Fort Rouge).