WINNIPEG — A pair of Brandon teams will battle for a spot in the playoff round of the Safeway Championship this morning, and both Rob Fowler and Steve Irwin will have tough opponents.
Irwin, a rookie skip, will take on defending provincial champion Jeff Stoughton in their A-side qualifier, while Fowler will face Richard Daneault, who was the team’s second until March when they parted ways.
Irwin, who defeated David Kraichy 7-4 in his A-side qualifying semifinal on Thursday, is feeling good through his first two games at the provincial men’s curling championship, based on his team’s play and his ability to draw.
"The biggest key to skipping is to have confidence in your draw weight and I’ve had that the first two games," he said. "It makes it easier to skip if you’re not worried about having to draw the four-foot, and I’ve made a few freezes already this week and draw weight has been there, so it’s good."
No freeze may have been bigger than in the fifth end against Kraichy. Facing two without hammer, Irwin corner-froze on a Kraichy counter in the top four-foot to sit shot and forced Kraichy to draw for one. It was a big turnaround as Kraichy was set up for three for most of the end. Irwin replied with a deuce in the sixth and stole two in the eighth to secure his spot against Stoughton.
Irwin knows his team of Joey Witherspoon, Travis Taylor and Travis Saban will have their hands full with Stoughton, who topped Randy Dutiaume 6-1 in five ends. However, he feels if they play well and catch a few breaks, they could pull off the upset.
If not, they have a second chance to reach the final eight through the B-side of the draw.
"We’ll give it our best against Stoughton and if we play our best we should give him a run," Irwin said. "If not, we always have a second chance and as long as you make the final eight, then everybody’s on the same terms, so it doesn’t matter if you make your first or second."
Meanwhile, Fowler’s four stolen points against Richard Muntain proved to be the difference in his 9-5 victory on Thursday to set up a matchup with Daneault, who reached the A-side qualifier by scoring three in the 10th to beat Brandonite Scott Ramsay 7-4.
Fowler’s team of Allan Lyburn and Derek Samagalski split with Daneault at the end of last season and replaced him with Brendan Taylor. While Daneault is really looking forward to taking on his former skip for a spot in the playoff round, Fowler is treating this morning’s contest as just another game.
"There’s lots of motivation any time you play to qualify for the final eight in this championship," Fowler said. "The opponent doesn’t really provide the motivation; it’s more the event and what the game means."
Former Brandonites Mike McEwen and William Lyburn also reached A-side qualifiers. McEwen beat Neepawa’s Kelly Robertson 10-4 and will face Steen Sigurdson, while Lyburn topped Carberry’s William Kuran 6-3 and will play Randy Neufeld in his A-side qualifier.
Meanwhile, on the B-side of the draw, Kuran and Dauphin’s Greg Todoruk both fell in the 4 p.m. draw and were eliminated from provincials. Kuran lost 7-3 to Sean Grassie, while Todoruk was defeated 10-4 by Trevor Loreth.
Virden’s Graham Freeman avoided elimination in the late draw, beating Bob Sigurdson 7-5 on the B-side, but Ramsay and Robertson were both ousted. Ramsay lost his B-side game 7-2 to Jared Kolomaya, while Robertson fell 8-7 to Justin Richter.