Inject Kyle Doering and his crew with a truth serum and they'll undoubtedly admit this:
Wearing Manitoba's colours at last year's Canadian Junior Curling Championships -- where they grabbed the bronze medal -- was an absolute blast.
Actually, the serum isn't really necessary...
"That was definitely one of the best experiences of my life," admitted Doering Wednesday. "I'd love to go back and I'm going to do everything I can to go back there again."
That mission begins today at the Brandon Curling Club with the opening of the provincials, the 2013 Canola Junior Championships. Doering, the defending Manitoba champion, is back representing the West Kildonan Curling Club with most of his team from a year ago still intact. (Connor Njegovan is the new third, coming over from last year's finalist Joey Witherspoon's rink).
Not surprisingly, Doering's crew is the No. 1 seed.
"We're fairly confident, but we're not overwhelmingly confident because there are so many good teams," said Doering. "We played Daniel Birchard (the No. 3 seed) last week and that didn't go so well so, we're not overly confident at all.
"We're just excited for the event. I just hope we throw our rocks well."
Matt Dunstone's rink, also from West Kildonan, is the second seed and on a roll heading into the provincials, having won a junior event in Brandon in November and the Christmas bonspiel over the holidays.
Doering's foursome, meanwhile, has spent a chunk of the season playing in men's events to up their level of competition, including two World Curling Tour events in Bemidji, Minn., and Morris, where they have compiled a 5-6 record.
"It's been a little tougher because the men's competition is very good," said Doering. "If you make one mistake, they're going to get points. Rock placement is absolutely critical. If you have a shot and it over-curls by an inch... it's got to be perfect. In juniors you can get away with a bit more."
But beginning today, Doering also knows he'll have a size-large target on his back. And what happens a year ago is worth diddly and squat when teams first slide out of the hack.
"Last year means absolutely nothing," he said. "It's a fresh slate now and it's pretty much anyone's ball game. Whoever goes into this weekend playing well is going to win.
"I hope my experience will help a lot, especially with the ability to cope with the pressure. I learned a lot over the events I've played in. The ability to stay cool will be important.
"We definitely want to go back to the nationals."
On the women's side, Shannon Birchard of St. Vital is the defending champion -- they captured a silver at the nationals -- and No. 2 seed. Her championship rink from last year has actually split and now forms two foursomes, with Selena Kaatz and Kristin MacCuish on new squad that enters the provincials as the top seed.
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @WFPEdTait
When: Jan. 3-7, 2013
Where: Brandon Curling Club
The prize: The chance to represent Manitoba at the 2013 Canadian Junior Championships in Fort McMurray, Alta., Feb. 2-10.
The round robin: Games begin today with draws at 8:30 a.m., 12:15 p.m., 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Friday draws: 8:30 a.m., 12:15 p.m., 4 p.m., 7:45 p.m.
Saturday draws: 9 a.m., 12:45 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 8:15 p.m.
Sunday draws: 8:30 a.m., 12:15 p.m, tiebreakers: 4 p.m. Page playoff (1 vs. 1, 2 vs. 2) 7:45 p.m.
Monday, Jan. 7: Semifinal 9:30 a.m., Final: 1:30 p.m.
TOP FIVE SEEDS
1. Kyle Doering, West Kildonan
2. Matt Dunstone, West Kildonan
3. Daniel Birchard, Pembina
4. Cole Peters, West St. Paul
5. Tanner Lott, Springfield
THE REST OF THE FIELD
Sean Davidson, Portage
Curtis Kaatz, Springfield
Jordan Smith, East St. Paul
Carter Watkins, Swan River
Steffan Adamchuk, Swan River
Braden Calvert, Carberry
JT Ryan, Assiniboine Memorial
Randy Greig, Deer Lodge
Austin Mustard, Portage
Colin Kurz, Wildewood
Nathaniel Swanson, Heather
TOP FIVE SEEDS
1. Selena Kaatz, St. Vital
2. Shannon Birchard, St. Vital
3. Alyssa Vandepoele, Victoria
4. Beth Peterson, Victoria
5. Rachel Burtnyk, Assiniboine Memorial
THE REST OF THE FIELD
Carly Angers, Miami
Rebecca Lamb, Stonewall
Jesse Iles, The Pas
Kylin Alm, Dauphin
Raina Syrnyk, Gilbert Plains
Janelle Schwindt, Brandon
Jennifer Curle, Minnedosa
Abby Ackland, Victoria
Kristy Watling, Victoria
Kayla Curtis, La Salle
Christine MacKay, Wildewood