Burtnyk one to beat

Kerry Burtnyk poses with the new Safeway Championship trophy yesterday at the Heather. (Sun...

Kerry Burtnyk poses with the new Safeway Championship trophy yesterday at the Heather. (Sun Media/Jason Halstead)

JIM BENDER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

The No. 1 seed is more concerned about firsts than fifths.

Assiniboine Memorial's Kerry Burtnyk was unveiled as the top seed for the 2007 Safeway Championship, to be played in Dauphin, Feb. 7-11, barely edging out Charleswood's defending champion Jeff Stoughton yesterday.

Burtnyk now has a chance to win his record-tying fifth Manitoba title after a one-year hiatus.

"The fifth one isn't really the important thing, the important thing is to try to win the championship, whatever number it is," said Burtnyk, who is also within eight wins of becoming the first to record the century mark at the men's provincials. "I have a new group of guys who have a lot of enthusiasm. They haven't had the experience of winning one before, so I'm hoping that added enthusiasm is going to be a real plus for us. And hopefully, my experience can help us out when it comes to crunch time."

Burtnyk formed a team of third Dan Kammerlock, second Richard Daneault and Cory Naharnie that was one of the hottest foursomes in Canada before Christmas but has tailed off a bit since.

"Clearly, we've lost a little of that momentum because our results haven't been as strong the last two or three events that we've played in," Burtnyk admitted. "But we have been curling similarly to how we curled early in the year, it's just that the teams we have been playing are playing a lot better against us. A lot of times when there could be a break going one way or another, it's gone against us.

"But, if we can keep plugging away, we've got a lot of important events coming up still this year and all these events are the most important events, starting with the provincial championship. So, we're going to go in there ready to play and hopefully, we can play our best."

Stoughton was named No. 2 in one of the closest player polls ever.

"It's nice for us to be chosen as No. 1 but, in the end, it really doesn't matter much what number we are," said Burtnyk, who will also compete at the Canada Cup and, likely, the Players' Championship.

Although Stoughton did not attend yesterday's press conference because he was practising, he is taking aim at a record sixth Manitoba men's title, albeit the first for new third Ryan Fry and new second Rob Fowler.

"(Burtnyk's) leading us on the money tour and on CTRS points so, we pretty much expected him to be No. 1," said Fry, 28. "We're starting to play a lot better. We're hoping to keep going through the Safeway Championship where our goal is to go out there, put on a good show and walk away with the title."

Fry's dad, Barry, won the 1979 Brier, and the young Fry would love to emulate that success.

"To win a Brier is the highest level of the sport so, if you're going to play it seriously, obviously, that's one of your goals as a kid growing up," he said. "(But) the pressure's not there that I have to go out and do it. We're just going to go out there as a team and play as hard as we can."

Rounding out the top five seeds are: Valour Road's Randy Dutiaume, Petersfield's Dave Boehmer and Portage la Prairie's Don Spriggs.

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THE SEEDS

TOP 16

1. Kerry Burtnyk, Assiniboine Memorial

2. Jeff Stoughton, Charleswood

3. Randy Dutiaume, Valour Road

4. Dave Boehmer, Petersfield

5. Don Spriggs, Portage

6. Reid Carruthers, Beausejour

7. Graham Freeman, Virden

8. Peter Nicholls, Elmwood

9. Randy Neufeld, La Salle

10. Kelly Robertson, Neepawa

11. Brent Scales, Swan River

12. Brad Haight, St. Vital

13. David Bohn, Valour Road

14. Mark Lukowich, Stonewall

15. Terry McNamee, Brandon

16. Dave Smith, Valour Road


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