WINNIPEG — Brandon’s Rob Fowler won his first game at the Safeway Championship on Wednesday, but he didn’t do it the easy way.
Fowler and his team of Allan Lyburn, Brendan Taylor and Derek Samagalski struggled to generate more than a single point against Gladstone’s Geoff Trimble for most of their opening contest. However, they started to find their game and got deuces in the sixth and eighth ends to beat Trimble 7-4 and stay on the A-side of the draw in the preliminary round of the Manitoba men’s curling championship.
Although his team didn’t get off to a great start, Fowler didn’t mind the result. He admitted that in 2012, when his team won the event and represented Manitoba at the Brier, they got off to a slow start but played their best at the end.
Fowler also feels playing into the 10th end early will help his squad with its touch later in the week.
"It’s good to play 10 ends because it forces you to play a lot more shots," he said. "In other years when you play a short game, you’re basically just hitting and you don’t get a feel for everything. As long as you get the win, it’s good."
Fowler advances to this morning’s A-side qualifier semifinals versus Richard Muntain.
The winner of Fowler’s semifinal will face either Richard Daneault or Brandonite Scott Ramsay’s Winnipeg-based team on Friday for a playoff-round berth. Ramsay beat Don Nelson 8-3 on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the biggest upset of the first day came from Greg Todoruk and his Dauphin team of Dwight Bottrell, Darcy Todoruk and Barrett Procyshyn. Todoruk, making his fifth appearance at the Safeway Championship and third as a skip, made a hit and stay in the extra end to knock off fourth seed Sean Grassie, who reached last year’s final. The 6-5 victory was the first ever at the Safeway Championship for Todoruk.
"It feels really good," he said. "… That was my goal, to win a game and get into the win column for once.
"We’ve played them quite a few times over the last couple years and had some good games. We knew if we could figure out the ice then we could hopefully play good enough to keep up with them."
Todoruk took control of the game in the eighth end when he scored three to take a 5-3 lead. He missed a draw to the button to win in the 10th before making his final shot in the extra end.
He will face Pembina’s Randy Neufeld in an A-side semifinal today at 8:30 a.m., and feels a lot better going into that game.
"It gives us some confidence with our first win, finally, and knowing that we can shoot well on this type of ice," he said. "… Hopefully we can keep going."
Neepawa’s Kelly Robertson also stayed on the A-side of the draw with a 10-2 win over Virden’s Graham Freeman. Today, Robertson will meet former Brandonite Mike McEwen, who defeated Minnedosa’s Glenn Parrott 10-2.
Carberry’s William Kuran was lucky to stay on the A-side as Trevor Loreth failed to hit the house with his draws against three and two in the ninth and 10th ends to giftwrap a 9-6 win for Kuran. The Carberry squad, which was down 6-2 after seven ends, will take to the ice today against former Brandonite William Lyburn, who edged Justin Stanus 7-5.
Brandon’s Steve Irwin didn’t play until last night’s late draw, which was still in progress at press time. Freeman, Parrott and Trimble were fighting for their lives on the B-side of the event in that late draw.
EXTRA END: Fowler, Jeff Stoughton, Mark Lukowich, Brent Scales and Randy Dutiaume, the five former provincial champions who are skipping teams this year, threw the ceremonial first stones.