NEEPAWA — For the first time in a long time, Brandon’s Terry McNamee is going to try to take the easy way to the playoff round at the Safeway Championship.
McNamee and his Brandon Curling Club team of Steve Irwin, Travis Taylor and Travis Saban knocked off Riverton’s Shawn Magnusson 8-5 Wednesday afternoon at Neepawa to give the skip his first opening-round victory in the provincial men’s curling championship in seven years.
It’s a huge advantage to stay in the A-side of the draw as McNamee is now only two wins away from qualifying for the final eight, and it’s a position he likes.
"It’s always nice to win the first one," he said. "It keeps you on the A-side, so we’re happy right now."
McNamee expects his next game to be a little tougher, as he faces Brendan Taylor — who was McNamee’s third during the 2002 and 2003 seasons — today at 8:30 a.m. Taylor beat Virden’s Graham Freeman 8-5 on Wednesday.
While there were some close games on the ice, the opening day didn’t provide many upsets. Neepawa’s Jerry Chudley and Winnipeg’s Steen Sigurdson were the only teams to beat higher seeded squads during the first three draws. Chudley, the 19th seed, defeated 14th-ranked David Kraichy 7-6, while Sigurdson, ranked 20th, slipped past Neepawa’s Kelly Robertson, the 13th seed, 7-6.
Chudley’s victory sets up a head-to-head matchup with defending provincial champion Rob Fowler and his Brandon team this morning. Although Chudley’s squad of Kevin Cooley, Brent McKee and Paul Robertson topped the Fowler foursome in the Brandon Men’s Bonspiel semifinal last month, Chudley expects a much tougher game.
"We know there’s a little more at stake for him, so we know we’re going to have to bring our best game to have a chance to beat him," he said. "We’re confident enough that if we play well that we can come out on top."
Fowler, with third Allan Lyburn, second Richard Daneault and lead Derek Samagalski, reached the A-side semifinal with an 8-2 win over Grant Brown’s Thompson foursome — which features Brandonite Rae Hainstock at third.
Fowler was happy to get off to a good start and finally get on the ice for a chance to defend his provincial title.
"It’s just nice to get out there," said Fowler, whose team was seeded third for provincials. "There’s a lot of buildup to the Safeway Championship and just to get going and make some shots, it’s pretty exciting."
Top-seeded Jeff Stoughton of Winnipeg — a nine-time provincial champion — opened with a 9-2 triumph over Rene Kolly of Manitou yesterday, while second-seeded Mike McEwen — a former Brandonite curling out of Winnipeg — defeated Gladstone’s Geoff Trimble 8-3.
No other Westman-based teams won their opening games as Carberry’s Rob Van Kommer was doubled up 8-4 by Winnipeg’s Dennis Bohn, while Deloraine’s Blair Goethals was dumped 11-2 by Winnipegger Sean Grassie.
Last night’s late draw, which included the final first-round contest between Brandon’s Scott Ramsay and Dauphin’s Rae Kujanpaa, was still in progress at press time.
EXTRA ENDS: NACTV is broadcasting every draw until Sportsnet takes over for the playoffs. Games can be watched online at nactv.ca or on Westman Cable, MTS or Bell. Check local listings for the channel … There’s no doubt who the fan favourites are as there are loud cheers every time Chudley and Robertson make a shot or score points … Robertson and his senior men’s silver-medallist team of Doug Armour, Peter Prokopowich and Bob Scales threw the event’s ceremonial first rock … It’s very cold inside the Yellowhead Centre. Spectators will want to wear a winter coat, mitts and possibly long underwear.