'Tobans seek redemption

JIM BENDER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:46 AM ET

It will be his first taste of national experience as a skip and Andrew Irving can't wait.

Irving will represent Manitoba at the M&M Meat Shops Canadian Junior Men's and Women's Championships which start in St. Catharines, Ont., on Saturday.

"This is the one," Irving declared yesterday. "The nerves aren't bothering me at all. I'm more anxious than nervous. I want to get going. Before the first game, I'll be a little nervous."

Actually, Irving could use a couple of days' rest before he hits the ice again. He tweaked the hamstring of his sliding leg while filling in at third for David Hamblin during the MCA's 119th Annual Bonspiel.

"I probably shouldn't have played on it," said Irving, who has been taking physiotherapy. "But I'm going to play (at the nationals) either way."

While this is the first junior nationals for both Irving and second Travis Taylor, it is the third for both third B.J. Neufeld and Marc Lacroix, who went with Daley Peters twice before.

"All they've been talking about all week is that this is redemption," said Irving, who has been listening to their advice about what goes on at the nationals off the ice. "Third time's the charm. And B.J.'s been joking around with his brother (Denni) because it's the same place (St. Catharines) he lost the (2001) final to (Newfoundland's Brad) Gushue when he played third for Mike McEwen, telling him we'll make up for it. But it's all in good fun."

But they will need to get by Alberta's defending world champion Charley Thomas, even if he does have two new players.

"We play him in the first draw and that would be a big win for us," said Irving, 20. "And if we can get on a roll early, we should be able to carry it through the rest of the week."

Other returnees include NWT's Colin Miller, Nova Scotia's Dominic Daemen and P.E.I.'s Brett Gallant. The Yukon's Thomas Scoffin is also the youngest skip in Canadian junior history at the tender age of 12.

"What would winning this mean to me? The same as winning the province," said Irving, who leaves this morning. "It's just another step in the whole plan that has been my goal for six or seven years now, especially with this being my last year of junior."

The winner will represent Canada at the world championships, to be held in Eveleth, Minn., Mar. 3-11.

The junior men's final will be televised live by CBC on Feb. 10 at 12:30 p.m.


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