Young guns' new target: Brier

JIM BENDER, WINNIPEG SUN

, Last Updated: 5:48 AM ET

It may be the most optimistic 0-7 record ever posted.

Manitoba's Jason Gunnlaugson returned from Edmonton yesterday flush full of enthusiasm despite going winless at the Canadian Curling Trials.

His foursome played in front of as many as 17,000 fans, many of them cheering the young guns on; faced the best teams in Canada; and even gave Alberta's Kevin Martin -- the eventual winner -- a run for his money in the trials opener.

"God, it was the most fun thing in the world," Gunnlaugson said.

"Unfortunately, we didn't perform up to the level we had been performing at and that is on my shoulders. When you get to an event, you just want to get back there so much more. This has fuelled us to want to get to a Brier and to want to get back to the trials in four years ... You don't get too many chances in life to go to an event of that magnitude."

Towards the Brier end, Gunnlaugson will compete in the Manitoba Curling Tour Championship in Brandon this week, with the winner earning a Safeway Championship spot.

"That will be a hard event for us," said Gunnlaugson, supported by third Justin Richter, second Braden Zawada and Tyler Forrest. "Even though we were longshots (at the trials), it was still the end of a dream, somewhat, for us."

Now, the dream is to get to their first Brier.

"It was an honour for us to be there, playing with the best of the best in Canada and arguably, the best eight teams in the world," said Zawada, who went to the Olympic trials straight out of juniors. "Obviously, we're a young team and this will be beneficial to our careers and we all want to get back there once we've had a taste of it."

After being tested at both the trials and the pre-trials, Gunnlaugson should have a realistic crack at winning the Manitoba title -- should he qualify.

"There's a ton of great teams in Manitoba," Zawada said. "But we've worked very hard and we should have a legitimate chance of going to the Brier. That's our next goal."

Meanwhile, there is already talk about changing the qualification process for the next trials, with one suggestion that it become more of a two-year setup -- which could keep some the older elite in the picture.

"But I like the system of the pre-trials and trials because it encourages the young teams to develop," Gunnlaugson said.

BITERS: The trials men's final drew 1.2 million viewers, a record for TSN curling. The women's final drew 832,000 ... Pembina's Sam Good, the defending champ, has been seeded No. 5 for the junior men's provincial championship that starts at the Deer Lodge Curling Club this Friday. Rounding out the top five, in order, are: Deer Lodge's Alex Forrest, Stonewall's Jared Kolomaya, Pembina's Daniel Birchard and Portage la Prairie's Steen Sigurdson ... St. Vital's Breanne Meakin, the only one left from the defending championship team, has been seeded second for the junior women's provincial playdowns, which start at the Charleswood on Friday. Rounding out the top five, in order, are: Victoria's Kate Cameron, Ste. Anne's Alyssa Vandepoele, Pembina's Shannon Birchard and Fort Rouge's Lindsay Robertson.

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca


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