Doug Riach might want to start getting ready for the Brier right now. The St. Vital skip capped off a perfect week last night with a 5-4, extra-end win over the Heather's Clare DeBlonde in the final of the fourth annual Winnipeg Men's Curling Club Championship at Victoria Curling Club.
DECIDED TO DRAW AROUND
Riach, who had the hammer in the 11th end, decided to draw around a guard to the top of the four-foot with his second-last stone. DeBlonde failed to bump Riach's stone out with his last rock, and the game was over.
"I just figured if I peeled (the guard), I'm guessing at the draw and I might not have a path to get it," Riach said.
If history is any indication, Riach should now be on a direct path to the Brier. Last year's winner of this event was none other than Valour Road's Randy Dutiaume, who finished third at the Brier last month in Edmonton.
And the 2003 winner was Mark Lukowich, who was also coming off a Brier appearance of his own in 2002.
Big names win this event. Riach, whose squad of Russ Hays, Dennis Wiebe and Gary Kremski pocketed $1,500 for capturing the title, is hoping he can follow in Dutiaume's and Lukowich's footsteps.
"I hope that's true," Riach said with a laugh. "It would be nice."
In reality, though, the 43-year-old Riach is just glad to be back on the ice. He won the Manitoba mixed title with Hays in 1987, but he blew out his knee while playing in the MCA Men's Bonspiel in 1996. Since he was newly married and starting a family at the time, Riach decided to step away from the game.
He didn't return until six years later, in 2002, and has qualified for three straight provincial men's championships. He's looking for more.
"We're looking forward to next season," Riach said. "We played pretty good (this year), we made the Select, and we're happy with the way we played, but there's always room for improvement.
"But yeah, we're looking for a good year next year."
DeBlonde (6-0) and Riach (5-0) were both undefeated going into last night's final. DeBlonde beat the Grain Exchange's Warren Reimer 7-4 in one semifinal, while Riach downed Pembina's Lionel Walz 9-5 in the other.
DeBlonde, along with Martin Bailey, John Helston and Garry DeBlonde, earned $800.
LOOSE ENDS: The DeBlonde boys won provincial men's titles together in 1976 and 1980, and the four team members have six provincial senior men's titles among them. Bailey and Helston also won a provincial masters men's crown last year ... Kremski isn't the regular lead for Riach. Tim Friesen was on a golf vacation.