VIRDEN — Steen Sigurdson’s Cinderella story hit at a snag at the Viterra Championship on Friday evening.
The 21st-seeded skip and his Gimli Curling Club team, which includes Justin Reynolds, Dillon Bednarek and Mitch Einarson, strung together four consecutive B-side victories after an opening 8-1 loss to Winnipegger Daniel Birchard on Wednesday afternoon, to earn one of the precious eight playoff berths at men’s provincials before dropping a 6-2 decision to Lorette’s Corey Chambers at Tundra Oil & Gas Place in Virden.
“I didn’t think much good was happening after the first one. We only went about six ends, so felt pretty bad going into the second game, but we’ve kind of gotten better every game since then,” Sigurdson told The Interlake Spectator after reaching the playoffs. “We had a couple of games against really evenly-matched teams. It was nice to come out on top.”
Sigurdson knocked off Baldur’s Grant Shewfelt and former finalist Sean Grassie on Thursday to reach the B-side semifinals. Only a massive 10th-end scrub from the hog-line by all three of his teammates — dragging Sigurdson’s final stone just barely enough into the four-foot area for a single — for a 6-5 victory win over Birchard. After fifth-seeded Dennis Bohn crashed his final stone in 10 into a guard, Sigurdson scored a steal of two and a 7-5 triumph.
He’s following the same path Brandon’s Steve Irwin followed last year in Winkler. Irwin eventually reached the final four, losing 5-3 to Manitoba junior men’s winner J.T. Ryan in the 3-vs-4 Page playoff game.
Sigurdson’s last two appearances at provincials, in Winnipeg in 2014 and Neepawa in 2013, also resulted in playoff berths, but he lost both games both times.
The Gimli foursome was the only playoff squad not among the top-eight seeds — and they accomplished the feat without their regular third Andrew Hunt, who is working in the U.S. Winnipeg Beach skip Justin Reynolds was added to the team to replace Hunt.
“It’s pretty good. I’ve never curled with Justin before, but I’ve curled against him a lot,” Sigurdson said. “I knew him pretty well going in and it’s worked out pretty well.”
Fourth seed and fellow Winnipeg Beach skip Tanner Lott, along with Colton Lott, Kennedy Bird of Rosser and Wade Ford were among the top seeds reaching the playoffs courtesy a 7-6 win, stealing one in the 10th end, over Bohn in an A-side qualifier in the morning draw.
But it was Tanner Lott’s big runback for a game-tying deuce in nine that gave his team a chance for a third straight win.
“It was kind of like an all-or-nothing shot. If you miss it the game is over, but if you make it, you’ve got a chance,” Ford said. “He made it and we knew we had a chance in the 10th end.”
Lott was stoked about the big-time win.
“This is the first time I’ve ever qualified through the A-side,” said the 26-year-old. “It’s quite an experience for us.”
Unfortunately for the Winnipeg Beach squad, they fell 9-7 at the hands of top seed and defending champion Reid Carruthers and his West St. Paul foursome in the evening’s first set of playoff matchups. Carruthers, with Mike McEwen throwing last rocks and calling the game, took control of the game with four in the fourth end and held off Lott’s late push.
After a 9-5 loss to Brandonite Terry McNamee that dropped him to the B side on Thursday, Carruthers won three straight, including 6-3 over McNamee in a B-side qualifier on Friday afternoon to secure a playoff spot.
In the other playoff contests, No. 2 Jason Gunnlaugson of Morris knocked off sixth-seeded William Lyburn from the Granite Curling Club 8-2, while third seed Braden Calvert from Assiniboine Memorial blanked club mate and seventh seed David Bohn 8-0 in just five ends.
In Saturday morning action, Calvert faces Gunnlaugson with one berth in the championship round at stake, while Chambers takes on Carruthers for the second of four berths. Meanwhile, Bohn battles Lyburn and Sigurdson goes up against Lott in elimination contests.
Sunday’s semifinal begins at 8:30 a.m., with the final to follow at 2:30 p.m. Both games will be broadcast on Sportsnet.