Brendan Taylor? Uh, Brendan Who?
Taylor, the 30-year-old skip from Kenora, via Brandon, via Winnipeg and now Selkirk, joined Burtnyk, the 1995 champion, and Stoughton, the 1996 world champ, in qualifying for the playoffs Friday at the 2009 Safeway Manitoba Men's Curling Championship.
Burtnyk, the defending provincial champion and No. 1 seed, and No. 2 seed Stoughton were automatics in most experts' minds.
However, No. 3 seed Mike McEwen stumbled Friday morning. Against who? Taylor, of course -- the No. 11 seed.
"We actually owed Mike a game there because in the MCT Championship, we had the lead and we let him slip back in and take the game," said Taylor, a tall, slender instrumentation technician. "It was good to get that one (7-6 in an extra end) and even the score.
"That was our first goal, to qualify, and we'll see where it goes from here."
Well, late Friday night after the eight-team playoff round started, Taylor hung on in a wild game to edge No. 15 seed Bob Sigurdson 10-8, advancing to a 9 a.m. match today against Stoughton. Both enter the game undefeated.
But Burtnyk got bitten late Friday, falling behind 4-0 to No. 5 seed Reid Carruthers and eventually losing 8-7, while Stoughton edged No. 3 McEwen 9-7 and No. 4 seeded Nicholls pasted No. 9 Daley Peters 7-3.
Nicholls plays Carruthers, McEwen faces Sigurdson and Burtnyk takes on Peters in the other 9 a.m. games this morning, with the winners of the Taylor-Stoughton and Nicholls-Carruthers games going directly into tonight's Page playoff 1 vs. 1 game.
The winners of the Sigurdson-McEwen and Burtnyk-Peters games advance but the losers go home.
"I won't say anything but it's pretty funny how No. 11's doing pretty good," Taylor chuckled after upsetting McEwen in the morning A-side qualifier. In the playoffs, each team can lose twice before they are eliminated.
Taylor competed in juniors in Northern Ontario, then curled with Terry McNamee in Brandon, before playing on teams skipped by Chris Galbraith and Sean Grassie in Winnipeg.
Now he's the skipper for a group of high achievers on other teams but who have become castoffs that have found a home together: third Kyle Werenich, second Taren Gesell and lead Cory Naharnie, nicknamed Doctor.
Werenich and Naharnie were on Ryan Fry's team that lost the 2005 final in Selkirk to Randy Dutiaume, while Gesell played second for Nicholls when he lost the 2007 provincial final to Stoughton in Dauphin.
Taylor? He played for Galbraith at the 2006 Safeway in Steinbach when they lost the 1 vs. 1 Page playoff game to Stoughton and then bowed out to Carruthers in a tough semifinal.
"I haven't gotten the exposure that the other guys have but Kyle, he's got six or seven Select appearances and Doctor, he's been there in the battle," Taylor said. "It's kind of funny how they forgot pretty much about my whole team, the front end of the team.
"I could see where they could leave me out of the picture but I'd like to see my guys get more respect, because they're definitely good shooters, probably among the top in the province."
Just don't describe this foursome as the potential Cinderella team of the 2009 provincials.
"I'm not really thinking Cinderella," Taylor said. "I just know the three guys on my team, they've all lost the final so they're hungry to win this thing... so we know what it takes to win."
Results at the Safeway Men's Curling Championship Friday:
Reid Carruthers 8 Kerry Burtnyk 7
Jeff Stoughton 9 Mike McEwen 7
Peter Nicholls 7 Daley Peters 3
Brendan Taylor 10 Bob Sigurdson 8
A side qualifying finals
Taylor 7 McEwen 6
Nicholls 9 Carruthers 3
Stoughton 8 Boehmer 4
Burtnyk 7 Peters 5
B side qualifying finals
Sigurdson 8 Boehmer 1
McEwen 5 Skinner 2
Carruthers 6 Neufeld 2
Peters 6 W. Lyburn 4
(x-winners directly to tonight's 7 p.m. Page 1 vs. 1 game; y-winner to 7 p.m. 3 vs. 4 game; z-loser eliminated)
x-Nicholls vs. Carruthers
x-Stoughton vs. Taylor
yz-McEwen vs. Sigurdson
yz-Peters vs. Burtnyk
Final two qualifying games
Page playoffs 1 vs. 2, 3 vs. 4
9:30 a.m. Semifinal
2 p.m. Final