Competitive fire burns in bantams

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 10:55 AM ET

Sometimes, the faces of our future competitive curlers can be found among the very young.

Like the bantam section of the $8,000 Optimist Club of Assiniboia Junior Curling Classic.

Pembina's Daniel Birchard cracked a five in the fifth end en route to an 8-1 victory over Assiniboine Memorial's Derek Blanchard in the bantam final at the Assiniboine Memorial Curling Club yesterday.

"It feels great because we have a big rivalry with them," said Birchard, 13, who had also beaten Blanchard in a Christmas Junior Bonspiel final. "Sometimes, we beat them and sometimes, they beat us."

Supported by third Kelly Fordyce, 13, second Andrew Peck, 12 and Brody Moore, 13, Birchard earned $300.

"We'll probably spend it somewhere," said Birchard, who was also preparing for next week's Youth Jamboree. His foursome lost the 13-and-under provincial final to Connor Njegovan in last year's youth championships.

Blanchard got $160.

The junior finals will be played at the Assiniboine today at 5 p.m.

NIGHTMARE ON ICE: Dan Kammerlock hopes he will slide out of a nightmare into a dream season with a legend next year. Kammerlock, who played for James Kirkness last season, his first year out of juniors, will play third for the Kerry Burtnyk when he comes out of retirement.

"That is very good news for me," said Kammerlock, who is playing third for the University of Winnipeg's Reid Carruthers at the national university championships being held at Asham Arena this weekend.

"This season was probably my worst season of curling ever," said Kammerlock, a top-rated skip in juniors. "I just wasn't playing with any confidence and we just didn't have any chemistry. Something like this will certainly give my confidence a boost and I hope it brings out the best in me."

Kammerlock, 22, had started the season at third for Kirkness but was demoted to second after only their second cashspiel together. The two then parted ways for good on the eve of the MCA's annual bonspiel.

"I don't regret this season," said Kammerlock, whose dad, Ron, played lead for Burtnyk when he won the 1981 Brier. "I got a lot of experience playing in some spiels I probably couldn't have gotten into if I had been skipping. That can only make you better."

Carruthers clipped Brandon University's Brittan Jones 7-6 in a tie-breaker and was playing the University of Manitoba's Adam Walker in the Page playoff 2-vs.-2 game last night. The winner will play the loser of last night's 1-vs.-1 game between Saskatchewan and Regina in this morning's semifinal (9:30).

No Manitoba women's teams made it to the playoff round. Lakehead was playing B.C. in the 1-vs.-1 game last night while Calgary was facing Saskatchewan in the 2-vs.-2 contest.

Both finals will be played today at 1:30 p.m. The respective winners will represent Canada at the 2007 World Universiade in Italy.

SENIORS START: Manitoba's Joyce McDougall opened the national senior men's and women's championship in Summerside, P.E.I., with two wins yesterday. Her Souris squad defeated Yukon/NWT 10-3 and Northern Ontario 7-5. Manitoba's Howie Restall dropped his opener to Yukon/NWT 6-3 and was playing his second match last night.


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