Must-win Manitoba

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:05 AM ET

Few would have seen this in their curling crystal ball.

In a rather surprising turn of events, Manitoba's junior men unexpectedly played themselves into a possible playoff position while Manitoba's defending national champion was on the brink of elimination, or at least a tie-breaker situation.

Manitoba's Kaitlyn Lawes dropped a 7-4 decision to Ontario's Rachel Homan at the Canadian Junior Men's and Women's Championships in Salmon Arm, B.C. yesterday.

That was the second straight loss for Lawes, who fell to 5-4 and a four-way tie for third place heading into the late draw. Only the top three teams make the playoffs.

"We'll see how the rest of the round robin goes before I can tell you if I'm disappointed," Lawes said from Salmon Arm shortly after the loss. "We have had a few ups and downs."

Yet, Lawes looked to be in control, sporting a 5-2 record before Yukon's Sarah Koltun -- who was 2-5 at the time -- upset her 8-6 late Wednesday. But that is part of the added pressure a defending champ faces.

"I'm sure a lot of them pick up their game for us," Lawes conceded reluctantly. "Two of us are back from last year but it's not the same team and the chemistry is totally different."

Third Jenna Loder has returned while the front end of Laryssa Grenkow and Breanne Meakin are new.

"I've struggled here and there," Lawes admitted. "I'd like to play better but, unless you're 100%, you're never satisfied."

Lawes was playing Northern Ontario's Vanessa Maloney, who was also 5-4, last night.

Homan improved to 8-1, just ahead of Alberta at 7-2 (Kevin Park's daughter, Kalynn, plays third for Alberta).

While Lawes's crown was slipping, Manitoba's Sam Good just kept getting better. Good battered Ontario's Bowie Abbis-Mills 10-4 to improve to 5-4 and a tie for fifth place before last night's draw. It was Good's third straight victory after a slow start.

"We kind of had a tight games and a few bad breaks earlier in the week," Good said. "Now, we're kind of on a roll and we want to keep it going."

But there was no room for error.

"We have to win out," said Good, who was facing Northern Ontario's Dylan Johnston, who was tied for first place at 7-2, last night. "I don't think four losses is going to do it.

"But all of the teams above us still have to play each other. And we'll just have to keep it simple and not make any mistakes."

Supported by third Taylor McIntyre, second Kent Moffitt and David Wiebe, little was expected of the inexperienced Good squad. McIntyre was "under the weather" early in the week but once he felt better, the whole team seemed to pick up its game.

"When my team is playing better, it makes my shots easier," Good said. "We didn't really know what to expect but we're just as good as anyone else here. And everyone's been so friendly, it's just been a blast."

Both Manitoba teams finish the roundrobin against Nova Scotia and New Brunswick today.


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