Kirkness on the way

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:55 AM ET

James Kirkness can feel the momentum building as his undefeated team closes in on a berth in the Safeway Select.

Kirkness and his Valour Road teammates improved to 8-0 at the 118th MCA Bonspiel last night and, in the process, eliminated a top contender for one of the five available berths in the provincial men's curling championship.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE YET

The 5-4 win by Kirkness over Ste. Anne's Murray Woodward was by far the former provincial champion's biggest challenge yet in this spiel, and it was one he was savouring.

"We want to try to give ourselves every opportunity to try to get the spot," said Kirkness, who curls with Richard Daneault, Pat McCallum and Adam Guenther.

"We've got good momentum now, and you don't want to have a hiccup along the way. Curling is just like any other sport ... when you've got a lot of confidence you tend to do well."

Woodward, who curls with Andy Stewart, Scott McCamis and Chad Barkman, entered the bonspiel as one of the favourites for a Safeway Select berth but will be going home empty-handed after losing consecutive games yesterday.

"I know for them it was a big game because it was their last chance to get in," said Kirkness, who made a nifty raise to the four-foot to score two in the final end.

"They are a top team, so they hate to not be in it I'm sure."

That would be an understatement.

"It must be the 6-0 jinx," said Stewart. "There's been lots of guys go bang-bang after getting to 6-0. We lost in the last end on the last shot two games in a row. It would have been nice to have the hammer on the last end."

They would have had the hammer on the last end, except Woodward hit and stuck on a blank attempt in the eighth. That was after the bell rang to signal that the game would last only one more end.

"(The bell) did throw a loop into things, and I think it was to our advantage," said Kirkness.

"With the free guard zone, I have to admit we've had a lot of success getting two with the hammer coming home."

Kirkness is one of seven undefeated skips in the bonspiel. The others include Ian Beavis of Morden, Terry Young of Elmwood, Doug Riach of St. Vital, Rob Cosens of West St. Paul, Mike McEwen of Valour Road and Gary Ross of the Granite.

However, McEwen can't field a team today and defaulted his remaining games. That means a free pass for Young in one main event and Tony Silvari in the other.

ON ONE LEG

Those still alive on one leg include Vic Peters and his brother Wilf. They can't both qualify for the Select in their hometown of Steinbach though, as they will face each other in an elimination game here if both win one more time.

Others on one leg include Randy Dutiaume, Howie Restall, Bob Sigurdson, Arnold Asham, Dave Boehmer, Reid Carruthers, Randy Neufeld and David Bohn.

Other big names eliminated from the main events yesterday include former world junior champion David Hamblin, former world men's champion Jeff Stoughton, ex-provincial champions Dave Smith and Mark Lukowich and former junior stars Ryan Fry and Adam Norget.

Stoughton, Smith, Lukowich and Fry already have Safeway Select berths, while Hamblin does not.

Kirkness likes the way his team is going, but says it's too early to start drawing comparisons to what Dutiaume did last year in winning the MCA grand aggregate and the provincial championship.

"Every game from now on in is going to be tough, so we're just trying to focus and grind it out," he said.

"We're not going to look too far ahead."


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