This year's Moses of Manitoba curling led his new followers to the provincial Promised Land yesterday.
Doug Harrison was lured out of semi-retirement to guide a trio of up-and-coming St. Vital curlers and the move paid off with the first trip to the men's provincial championship for their rink.
Harrison had a sea of five red rocks in the sixth end to finish off Assiniboine Memorial's top-seeded Kerry Burtnyk 9-3 in a Safeway Select A-B final at his home club to earn the berth.
"I feel good for the boys," said Harrison, supported by an ecstatic third Taren Gesell, 22, second Scott McCamis, 24, and lead Andy Melnuk, 22. "I played well (yesterday). I didn't play well (Saturday night).
"The ice changed and I guess we caught on to it a little bit quicker than Kerry did."
Harrison actually beat Burtnyk twice in the zones, which should give his newly-found foursome confidence heading to the Select in Selkirk, Feb. 9-13.
"It's a good feeling," said Harrison, 56. "It's kind of a good feat."
Harrison was asked to take over after the other three split with skip Dwayne Small.
"If they keep playing the way they're playing, I can't have any more fun," he said.
Harrison believes his 29th trip to the men's provincials is just short of the number of appearances by both Johnny Usackis and Orest Meleschuk.
Burtnyk will now have to earn his Select spot through the MCA's annual bonspiel, which starts Thursday.
"I was especially, really disappointed in myself," said the two-time Brier champ. "I came out flat and missed a couple of really bad shots in the first end. That put our team behind the 8-ball and it gave those guys a big lift, and they played really well after that. Doug's got some good young curlers there and he's a veteran and obviously knows how to play the game. If you give him a break or two, he's going to take advantage of it and unfortunately, both times we played him, we gave him too many breaks.
"Now we're going to try to do it the hard way. It's a long route through the MCA."
Meanwhile, Grain Exchange's second-seeded Dave Boehmer nipped Valour Road's Collin Sundell 7-6 in another A-B final to earn his Select berth through city zones for the first time. Last year, he made it through the MCA spiel's minor berth playoff.
"We did have some easy games in the minor events and the zones are a more well-balanced attack," said Boehmer, 39. "They're all out to get ya and this is their peak season right now. It's tough, these guys come to play."
Boehmer had to rush home from a Grand Slam event, then win 17 straight minor-event matches last year. That took a toll on third Pat Spiring, now 42, second Richard Daneault, 27 and lead Don Harvey, 40, by the time they got to the Select.
"We were pretty tired," Boehmer said. "That's way too many games in those three weeks."
Boehmer, by the way, has become known as the best team to never win a Select or Slam.
"Yeah but it doesn't get into my head or anything," he said. "I just go out and play hard and hope that good things happen in the end. It doesn't bother me at all that we haven't won."