Unexpected success

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:48 AM ET

There was no clear-cut favourite going into provincial junior men's curling championship at the Granite.

So Winnipeg's Michael Johnson, who entered the event as the No. 9 seed, slowly but surely grabbed it by the throat. Now he needs only one more win to become Manitoba's best.

After posting the only 7-0 round-robin record, Johnson dumped the No. 10 seed, Pembina's Sam Good, 9-5 in last night's 1-1 Page playoff game. That propelled Johnson directly to today's final at 1:30 p.m.

Good will face Pembina's Jim Coleman in the semifinal today at 9:30 a.m. Coleman downed clubmate Daniel Birchard 5-2 last night in the 2-2 playoff tilt.

In the junior women's event, Ste. Anne's Alyssa Vandepoele scored the biggest upset of the event so far, downing Pembina's Kaitlyn Lawes 7-6 in last night's 1-1 game.

Lawes, the defending national champ, cruised through the round robin with a 7-0 record, winning her contests by an average score of 9-3.

Vandepoele goes directly to today's 1:30 p.m. final, while Lawes will face La Salle's Sabrina Neufeld in the semifinal at 9:30 a.m.

Neufeld beat Assiniboine Memorial's Michelle Montford 7-5 in last night's 2-2 game after needing an extra end to down Victoria's Kate Cameron 5-4 in a tiebreaker yesterday afternoon.

Interestingly, Lawes recruited Breanne Meakin and Laryssa Grenkow away from Neufeld's squad last summer, which forced Neufeld to find a new team.

Johnson admitted prior to last night's 1-1 contest that he didn't see an undefeated run through the junior men's field in his curling almanac.

"Not really," he said. "We had a pretty good run in the Christmas spiel. We only lost one game there. We just kind of got off to a good start here and kept it going."

This is Johnson's third trip to provincials but the first time he has made the playoffs after finishing with a 3-4 record in his first two attempts.

Johnson's team is listed as playing out of Portage, but that was only for zone playdown purposes. He and the rest of his squad -- Brian Thomson, Danial Gagne and Derek Blanchard -- all live in Winnipeg and play primarily out of Assiniboine Memorial.

Johnson also has a theory as to why he's had such a strong showing. He is studying math and physics at the University of Winnipeg, and since his exams wrapped in early December he was able to throw rocks every day for the last month.

That work has paid off handsomely so far. If he can get just one more win, the ninth seed will be off to nationals.

"It feels pretty good, but we can't let up or anything," he said. "We gotta keep it going."


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