Motoring to Steinbach

JIM BENDER, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 10:43 AM ET

Kerry Burtnyk will celebrate a silver anniversary when he slides on to Steinbach ice next month.

The Assiniboine Memorial skip beat St. Vital's Dave Smith 9-8 in an extra end in a Safeway Championship city zone playdown at the Grain Exchange Curling Club yesterday to earn his 25th trip to the men's provincials.

"It's certainly pretty special," said Burtnyk, supported by third Don Walchuk, second Richard Daneault and lead Garth Smith.

"Any time that you get to a provincial here, that's always a big accomplishment. To do it that many times is good and certainly, I'm most proud of winning five times -- and I would like to make it one more."

BRIER IN HALIFAX

Orest Meleschuk and Johnny Usackis (30 each) hold the record for most appearances. Only Jeff Stoughton has won more Buffaloes (seven) than Burtnyk.

This year's Brier will be in Halifax, where Burtnyk won his two Canadian championships (1981 and '95).

"I have certainly thought of that," said Burtnyk, who also won the world crown in 1995. "The two times I got to go to Halifax worked out very nicely, so it would sure be nice to get to go again."

Transplanted Albertan Walchuk has met Curl Manitoba's new eligibility requirements. Burtnyk put the squad together to get to the Canadian Curling Trials, likely his last shot at earning a trip to the Olympics.

Burtnyk, 51, failed to qualify, so one wonders what the future on the pebble now holds for one of the greatest curlers in Canadian history.

"Right now, the plan is, we're going to play in the provincials -- we've got a Grand Slam first," said Burtnyk, referring to the event that starts at the MTS Centre on Wednesday. "Hopefully, we can win the provincials and if we do, we're off to the Brier and we'll just play out the rest of the year.

"Right now, I'm just focused on what's going to happen right now. I'm not too worried about what's going to happen past this year. I'm not getting any younger. There's probably not a four-year plan in my plans, but I don't know what's going to happen."

While Burtnyk is making his 25th trip to the provincials, which will be played Feb. 10-14, Bill Kuran will finally make his first.

Kuran, who throws the last brick for West Kildonan's Dave Elias, turned the trick at long last yesterday after getting within a victory of the accomplishment numerous times.

"I've lost 14 games to get there," Kuran, 42, said after Elias sunk Victoria's Collin Sundell 8-4. "I guess I figured I would eventually get there ... It's just patience ... I had a feeling I was going to get there this year, so I'm not really super surprised. It feels good, there's no doubt about it."

Pembina's David Kraichy recorded the biggest upset of the zones when he nipped Deer Lodge's second-seeded Peter Nicholls 5-4 in an A-B final to punch his ticket to the provincials.

West Kildonan's Andrew Wickman also surprised Fort Garry's fourth-ranked Vic Peters 9-3 in another A-B final.

Joining them at the provincials will be West Kildonan's Brendan Taylor, Granite's Bob Sigurdson and Sean Grassie of Deer Lodge.

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca


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