Geared up for grind

CHAD SCARSBROOK -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:44 AM ET

Last year he busted out of the gates with a 14-0 record at the MCA Bonspiel en route to a 15-2 finish, the grand aggregate title and a berth in the provincial championships. Doug Riach may just have to do that all over again if he wants to be in Dauphin for the Safeway Championship next month.

"You have to be ready to do it all again," the Valour Road skip said with a smile before he took to the ice at the 119th edition of the local spiel last night at Victoria Curling Club. "We're looking forward to it. I mean, you're not always going to win a grand aggregate, but we just want to get to Dauphin."

Six spots are available for the top qualifying teams in the MCA, which kicked off last night and runs until Wednesday. Riach is one of several notable teams that have yet to nail down a spot.

"Basically it's your whole year," Riach said, explaining why it was so important for his squad to punch a ticket to Dauphin. "That's the first step to the Brier, and that's why we play. The money's secondary. To me, anyways."

Riach, along with teammate Russ Hays, assembled a new team this summer -- joining up with former junior standouts Adam Norget and Jordan Bauldic.

"Adam was actually supposed to be playing with somebody else, but Russ and I were looking and he called me," said Riach. "I said 'Let's do it.'"

Norget, a former provincial junior champion, is playing third for Riach.

"It's definitely different playing third," he admitted. "It took a little getting used to at first, but I've settled in really well and I love playing with him and all three of those guys. Our team chemistry's really good, we mesh really well."

Riach said he's been happy with the team's performance this season, although his zone "didn't go as well as we wanted." So, for the second straight year, Riach will need to get to the provincials by way of the MCA. Though it took a lot mentally out of the skip last year (a 17-game grind in a week), it didn't set in until after the event.

"It was going so fast that we didn't have time to think about it -- especially when you're going back to back," said Riach. "You play a game, get in the car, drive to the next rink. When you're winning, everything's good."

And just because he's the defending grand aggie champ doesn't mean he's taking anything for granted.

"It really has nothing to do with it," Riach said of having extra confidence because of last year. "There's tons of good teams here. The average club team can be a good team. They get up to play you, and you have to be ready to play."

Riach was ready last night, defeating Granite's Mark Metcalfe 11-6.

Although the bonspiel kicked off with 438 teams -- its lowest number in decades -- don't count Riach as one supporting the theory that the sport is in trouble.

"We're still talking over 400 teams," he said. "What other sport draws that?"


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