STE. ANNE -- The hometown favourite proved to be the best team here this weekend.
Yet, Ste. Anne's Renaud Gagne still lamented his luck.
Gagne defeated James Kirkness of Fort Rouge 8-5 in the men's final of the Labatt Manitoba Curling Tour Championship at the Ste. Anne Curling Club last night.
In past years, the MCT winner also earned a berth into the Safeway Select the following year. But the Manitoba Curling Association wants that champion to play in the Select the same season and last year's winner (St. Vital's Ryan Fry) is already going this year. So, Gagne must play off against next year's MCT champ, if eligible, for a spot in the 2006 Select.
"Yeah, that figures," Gagne joked. "Just my luck."
Gagne also earned $7,000 and a spot in the Canada Cup West Bonspiel in Edmonton come December.
"I can't even think about that Canada Cup spot right now," said Gagne, 38. "Our focus right now is on the MCA bonspiel because I've never been in the Select. The same with (lead) Brad (Hawkins, 41)."
The press operator hooked up with Chris Suchy, 36, and Hub Perrin, 37, this season after both had parted ways with their old teams. Suchy went to the Brier as third for Mark Lukowich in 2002 while Perrin had toiled for Murray Woodward.
"We really started to come together as a first-year team this weekend," said Gagne, who had made the playoffs in the last two Manitoba mixed championships. "I've always had the greatest respect for the MCA champion and this certainly gives us confidence."
Kirkness, who had advanced by beating Fry 7-5 in a semifinal, settled for $4,000.
"The key for us was to get a little curling in before our zones," said Kirkness, the fourth seed in the Select city zone playdowns that start tonight. "We came in here after quite a lengthy layoff and I think this was the best we played all year."
Gagne, who defeated Deloraine's Murray Warren 8-6 in the other semifinal, cracked a deuce in the eighth end to take a 7-4 lead, then held on for the victory.
"That was the turning point," Kirkness said.
"Certainly, that was a huge three-point differential," agreed Gagne, who made a come-around tap-back.
Both Fry and Warren got $2,000.
In quarter-finals, Fry defeated Petersfield's Dave Boehmer 8-7 while Warren sunk Stonewall's Chris Galbraith 9-3.
BITERS: The men's final will be shown on Shaw Cable tonight at 7 p.m. ... The MCT is considering both Brandon and the Heather Curling Club, among others, for next year's championships.