After five days of rinks, rocks and laughs, Richard Daneault claimed one last victory at the Manitoba Open to become the winner of the world's biggest bonspiel.
In the final game of the bonspiel's top Asham event on Monday night, Daneault skipped his Granite Curling Club rink to a 6-3 win over Deer Lodge Curling Club's Sean Grassie. The win gives Daneault and his freshly assembled team -- third Chris Galbraith, second Braden Zawada and lead Mike Neufeld -- the bonspiel's top bragging rights, as well as the Safeway Championship berth he earned by making it to the Asham final.
"It's awesome," Daneault said. "It feels pretty good because we've had a little bit of a struggling year. It's good to get on a win streak."
Daneault thumped Grassie right out of the gate to take a grip on the game. The team picked up a single in the first end, stole one in the second and then swiped a deuce in the third to jump out to a 4-0 lead. Grassie's team responded with a deuce of their own in the fourth, but could never close the gap, and the team shook hands (and traded a few friendly laughs) after seven ends.
"Sean just missed a couple early ones, and kind of gave us a chance to get up early," Daneault said, before heading to the Assiniboine Memorial Curling Club's lounge for the trophy ceremony. "It was a little bit of a simpler game for us from there on, but it forced them to make some shots, and it worked out for us."
Meanwhile, the Manitoba Open wrapped 12 other event finals on Monday night, closing its first co-ed bonspiel with a bang. All eight sheets at Assiniboine were roaring, as were six more at the St. Vital Curling Club. And of course, the upstairs lounge at Assiniboine was bustling as curlers and organizers gathered to reflect on the gonzo curling week that was.
This was the first year the 126th annual Manitoba Open -- formerly the MCA Bonspiel -- allowed women and junior players to enter. While they capped entries at 256 teams, organizers estimated that about 20 ladies and mixed teams signed up. Among them was bonspiel co-chair Laurie Macdonell herself. The buzz around the change was encouraging, Macdonell said, as women's teams that had entered the halfspiel expressed a desire to move up to the whole shebang in 2015.
"I think it was a huge success," Macdonell said, who felt the thrill of playing in the world's biggest bonspiel herself. "It was awesome. It was a lot of fun, the guys were great out there. We had a blast. My team has already said they want to play again next year."
There is one last Manitoba Open matter to be decided today: Who gets the final men's provincial championship berth. There were four up for grabs at the Manitoba Open, and even before the event finals began, three had been given out. Daneault received one, while Don Nelson and last year's MCA Bonspiel champion Mark Lukowich were also awarded berths, after they made it to the final of the Free Press event.
The final berth will be awarded today, in a special playoff game between Kevin Brown and Trevor Loreth at St. Vital Curling Club. Brown won a tiebreaker game on Monday night against Scott Madams to advance to the last-chance match.