Lauber steals prov. berth

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 10:45 AM ET

If you hadn't watched the game, you would not have been able to tell which skip had just snagged the final berth in the provincial junior men's curling championship.

The Pembina club's Kelly Lauber had a stunned look on his face, while Oakbank's Matthew Joyal looked quite content.

EMERGED VICTORIOUS

But it was Lauber who had just emerged victorious in yesterday's six-team, provincial berth playoff that traditionally concludes the annual Christmas Junior Bonspiel.

Joyal was up 6-4 and had the hammer in the ninth and final end (the games are timed), but Lauber stole four to win 8-6 at the Fort Garry Curling Club.

You know that feeling you get when your car is sliding on the ice and you know there's no way to stop it? Joyal experienced that gut-churning emotion last night, as he watched his final stone sail through the house.

But you wouldn't have known it by his demeanour after the game.

"I just didn't want to be light," Joyal said, displaying excellent sportsmanship. "I knew I had backing, but I wasn't sure if I had too much ice.

"... I guess I just got a little excited."

Joyal's team wasn't supposed to make it to last night's final, considering it wasn't formed until a month ago.

Joyal, 16, got together with Brennan Lobban, 16, Matt Gesell, 16, and his younger brother Nicholas, 14, to play in the upcoming Manitoba Winter Games.

The only reason they entered the Christmas Junior Bonspiel was for practice.

"I didn't think we'd even make it this far, but we did really good," Matthew Joyal said. "Just one bad end."

Lauber, 20, breathed sigh after sigh of relief as family and friends greeted him with big hugs after the game. The win was extra special for him, because this is his first trip to provincials in his final year of eligibility.

"We stuck with it, fortunately," Lauber said. "We got a couple of lucky breaks in the last end."

Lauber and his team of Brad VanWalleghem, 18, Kevin Prior, 17, and Shane Halliburton, 18, don't have much time to bask in the glow of their win, as the provincial championship begins Wednesday at Winnipeg's Wildewood Club.

"We're definitely happy going in on a high note," Lauber said.

In the junior women's six-team playoff, also held at Fort Garry, Wildewood's Tracy McCrea, 20, booked a trip to provincials with a 10-5 win over Victoria's Laura Wilkinson last night.

This will be McCrea's third provincial championship but the first with her new team, which consists of Shea Maywood, 17, Sarah Lund, 17, and Kelsey Hinds, 15.

McCrea had to win three games yesterday, but the second was by default, as Brandon's Jen Kienas had to pack it in before a semifinal match when two members of her team were struck down by the flu.

"This was really good," McCrea said. "It was good practice for us, and we have momentum. I'm excited.

"... It was a long week, but it was so worth it."

The junior women's provincial championship, which also starts Wednesday, will be played at St. Vital Curling Club.


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