Tough to find chemistry

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:08 AM ET

Never before have there been so many changes among the top men's teams in one mid-season.

And Dale Duguid is not even involved.

Actually, most of this soap opera revolves around the vestiges of the foursome that Valour Road's Mark Lukowich took to the 2002 Brier.

First, Lukowich left to join Vic Peters but the two parted ways recently. Third Chris Suchy hooked up with Ste. Anne's Renaud Gagne. Although they had a great cashspiel season, winning the Manitoba Curling Tour title, they were knocked out of contention in the early going of the MCA's 117th Annual Bonspiel.

Lukowich's former second Dave Elias and lead Shane Kilgallen united with Ste. Anne's Murray Woodward, which was yet another short-lived marriage. But Elias and Kilgallen then answered an S.O.S. from Valour Road's Randy Dutiaume. And finally found some chemistry. Dutiaume bounced Valour Road's Howie Restall 8-5 at the Victoria Curling Club last night to up his record to an unblemished 8-0.

"I'd had enough with my regular squad," Dutiaume said after defeating Assiniboine Memorial's Gerry Jorowski 3-0 at the Grain Exchange Curling Club earlier. "We just weren't getting along on the ice and that's the way she goes. It had been dysfunctional all year but I was going to be professional and finish the year off (together)."

But after frustrations continued to mount in the Safeway Select city zone playdowns, two of Dutiaume's teammates decided to join other teams. So, he called Elias and Kilgallen, who had been trying to convince Lukowich to skip them in the MCA's spiel. Elias, 35, replaced Craig White at third while Kilgallen, 34, replaced Dan Cox at lead. Greg Melnichuk, 31, remains at second.

"There's no ill feelings, I still like all my guys," assured Dutiaume, 42. "They're good players, we just didn't click on the ice. But as soon as they told me we were done, it was like a 900-pound gorilla off my back."

His new squad is now in the thick of the hunt for one of the five Select spots up for grabs this week.

"Dave and Shane are pros," Dutiaume said. "They have been to the Brier and they know that you don't win or lose a game in one end."

Elias and Kilgallen went through the same sort of thing with Woodward.

"We bonspieled a lot early and didn't really win anything," Elias said. "We're still friends but weren't getting along. There was a lot of tension on the ice and Shane didn't want to play in the MCA (bonspiel) because it just wasn't any fun."

Kilgallen concurred.

"It (the split) was a relief," he said.

Woodward was also bounced from Select contention with a different lineup.

Kilgallen believes Lukowich is the fifth man for Valour Road's Arnold Asham in the bonspiel, quite a drop from playing in the Grand Slam with Peters, his long-time friend.

"It had been his dream to play with Vic," Kilgallen said. "And two months later, it was a nightmare."

BITERS: Dutiaume will assist Mark Shurek in making the ice for the Slam's Canadian Open at the MTS Centre this weekend ... The Fort Garry Curling Club will host a sendoff to the nationals for Manitoba junior men's champion Daley Peters tomorrow night.


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