Dave Boehmer is still known as the best never to win the big one, while Ryan Fry has been deemed the next big one of Manitoba.
They were just two of five Valour Road skips to lead their teams into this year's provincial men's championship, to be held in Steinbach, Feb. 8-12, through the Safeway Select city zone playdowns yesterday.
'LOTS OF YEARS'
"It's hard to grade yourself as a team, and if that's what they're saying, then that's a compliment," said the top-seeded Boehmer, who beat Deer Lodge's Lee James 6-2 in a B-side final at the St. Vital Curling Club to slide through his zone undefeated. "I still feel good. I've got lots of years left in me to curl.
"I don't know what it is; we've made some early exits at the provincials, and I don't know why. Teams just get so up against you that it's hard. But I've got a good feeling because we're playing our best as a team right now. Hopefully, it stays that way."
Boehmer, 40, got a spark of sorts when Pat Spiring recently returned to playing third with Ken Tresoor dropping himself to second.
"It might be more of a psychological thing," said Boehmer, also supported by lead Keith Fenton. "Pat's been third for me for a couple of years now, so it just feels a little more comfortable."
The other Valour Road squads to qualify for the provincials were former provincial champs Mark Lukowich and Dave Smith, and Mike McEwen. Also earning Select spots were Elmwood's Pete Nicholls and Granite's Howie Restall.
Meanwhile, the second-seeded Fry attacked both the season and his opponents with a fire that was ignited by his loss to Valour Road's Randy Dutiaume in last year's Select final.
"That single game against Randy has pretty much changed the entire way we call our game," said Fry, who beat clubmate Brent Braemer 6-1 in an A-B final. "We'll try to beat teams as quick as we can when we have the hammer. When we're playing good, it works. If we miss a few shots, it doesn't work too much.
"We've had a good year. We've probably been going at it as hard as any team on the World Curling Tour, so it's a little sweet to get into the provincials after that. That's sort of the second part of the season, right? We're looking forward to being back in the provincials. Hopefully, we'll play our best, and we'll see if we can find ourselves in the same situation."
Meanwhile, Nicholls nipped St. Vital's Collin Sundell 6-5 in his A-B final.
"It never gets stale to go to the provincials," said Nicholls, who figures he will make his 18th appearance there. "And the way our team is playing, we'll have an excellent chance there."