VIRDEN — The 2019 Brandon Brier will feature a skip with strong ties to the community.
Brandon native Mike McEwen, skipping the Reid Carruthers team, and former Brandon resident William Lyburn will meet in the Manitoba men’s curling championship final Sunday afternoon at Tundra Oil & Gas Place.
The winner will represent Manitoba at the Brier at Westoba Place in Brandon, March 1-10.
Lyburn, now curling out of Winnipeg, beat Jason Gunnlaugson 6-2 in the Viterra Championship semifinal Sunday morning.
Lyburn, third Daley Peters, second Kyle Doering and lead Brendan Bilawka will face the Carruthers team at 2:30 p.m. It’s the first appearance in the provincial final for all of the players.
“This is 20 years in the making,” Lyburn said. “I’m super proud of us getting to the final but now it’s time to finish it off.”
McEwen has played in the last five provincial finals and has won two of them. Carruthers is a five-time Manitoba champion and won the Brier and world championship as second for Jeff Stoughton in 2011.
Carruthers will have hammer in the first end and choice of rocks, which gives him an early advantage over Lyburn.
But Lyburn didn’t have the hammer at the start of the game against Gunnlaugson either and it all worked out well.
Gunnlaugson tried to play a conservative game, blanking the first three ends before taking one in the fourth.
Lyburn scored a big deuce in the fifth and never relinquished the lead. He stole one in the eighth to go up 3-1 and Gunnlaugson was heavy on a draw for two in the ninth, allowing Lyburn to have the hammer and a one-point lead in the 10th.
He didn’t have to throw his last rock to score two in the last end and book a ticket to the final.
“Phenomenal … those young guys (Doering and Bilawka), you’d never know it’s a big moment like it is,” Lyburn said. “They seem pretty calm. They’re the ones helping me along in this whole thing, and I’m supposed to be the old guy.”
After the win, Lyburn was greeted by his wife Jody and daughters Mikaylah and Madison, who travelled out from Winnipeg early Sunday morning for the 8:30 a.m. draw.
“It’s very nice,” Lyburn said, wiping tears from his eyes. “My wife told me late last night. I told her not to bother because it’s a long way to come to see us lose or whatever. She said they wanted to go and the kids and friends of ours picked them up so they didn’t have to drive. They all came together this morning and it was really special.
“She told me, I’m not coming all the way to see you lose.”
It was also a huge moment for Peters, whose father Vic was a three-time Manitoba champion and 1992 Brier winner.
Vic died of cancer in 2016 but his kids are carrying on the curling tradition. His daughter Liz Fyfe will represent Manitoba at the national Scotties in Sydney, N.S., next week as the second on the Tracy Fleury team, and now Daley has a chance to get to the Brier for the first time as well.
“It’s pretty cool, I’m not gonna lie,” Peters said. “To get the Buffalo on the back like the old man had three times, would be a dream. Just to get to a final is pretty cool.”
Peters played very well all week and the whole team was solid in the semifinal.
“It was nerve-wracking, I’m not gonna lie, but I’m ecstatic with this result,” Peters said. “That’s probably the most nervous I’ve been. It was my first Sunday and all that, but we were strong, we didn’t miss too much.”