Heather squad surprised by success

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:21 AM ET

For three straight days, he took on all comers and won.

And for what must have seemed like a fleeting moment, Heather's J.P. Vermette was in elite company at the MCA's 117th Annual Bonspiel with an unblemished 8-0 record.

Then came Blue Monday. Vermette crashed and burned, first dropping a 7-3 decision to La Salle's Randy Neufeld, then getting ignominiously bounced from the entire bonspiel when David Hamblin of Morris beat him 6-4 at the Thistle Curling Club. He does not even get to drop into a minor event.

That may be a cruel fate but the 29-year-old Vermette was not about to hang himself on one of the hooks hanging down from the pipes over the Thistle pebble.

"We had a good run," said Vermette, supported by third Louis Wenden, 59, second Bernie Bohemier, 56 and Mike Yallowenga, 41. "We surprised ourselves. But it's to be expected when you get to play the teams at a higher level when you get this far. The one good thing is we know we can do it now."

Actually, Vermette grew up in Morris and has faced Hamblin many times before.

"This is an old rivalry," he said.

Others suffering similar fate yesterday included St. Vital's Andrew Wickman and Pembina's Lionel Walz.

Hamblin continues to hobble along on one leg, knowing he has no more room for error.

"It hasn't been a terrible thing because it has been such a grind for the last few days," said the defending Grand Aggregate champion. "Now, you just focus on one game on one day, then go home and relax.

"There's two schools of thought. If you're still alive on two sides, you're happy you've got the two chances. If not, then you're happy you don't have to play as many games and can get some rest in-between. I mean, you can't win two spots."

The last time Hamblin has missed a provincial championship was back in 1999 when he failed to qualify for the juniors. Since then, he has won the Manitoba junior title twice (2000 and 2002) and both the Canadian and world crowns (2002). He qualified for the Select his first year out of junior and was there again last year.


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