VIRDEN — Brothers Tanner and Colton Lott haven’t curled competitively together in almost a decade, but the Winnipeg Beach Curling Club teammates are making the most of it at the Viterra Championship.
Tanner, 26, who now lives in Clandeboye, and 23-year-old Colton, who calls Sandy Hook home, entered men’s curling provincials alongside lead Wade Ford and second Kennedy Bird of Rosser, seeded fourth in the 32-team bonspiel. With two victories at Tundra Oil & Gas Place under their belts, the Winnipeg Beach squad is one victory away from securing a spot in the eight-team playoff round.
They followed up Thursday’s 9-2 triumph over Dauphinite Greg Todoruk with a scrappy 6-4 win over veteran Deer Lodge skip Sean Grassie — courtesy a four-ender in the fifth — on Thursday morning.
“We stayed on top of the ice, some spots got straight toward the end and we picked up on that. We curled fairly well … a lot of our misses were useable,” Tanner told The Interlake Spectator.
“Starting to peak now, so hopefully we can keep that going for the rest of this event,” he added.
Could the relatively undheralded foursome be heralded a dark horse in Virden, able to compete against the top three seeds skipped by Mike McEwen, Jason Gunnlaugson and Braden Calvert?
“I feel like we can curl at the same level as them, for sure,” Tanner said. “It’s just one game at a time at this point.”
Fresh off teaming up with girlfriend Kadriana Sahaidak to lead Canada to a gold-medal victory at the Curling World Cup in Jönköping, Sweden, on Feb. 3, Colton arrived back in Manitoba late Monday before before heading west down the Trans-Canada Highway to Virden.
“It was a great experience. I don’t even have the words to describe it,” he said. “It ended up being a long week, but a fun week, and just everything just happened to work out our way. It was a battle and we pushed and never gave up, and we just played our game.”
If Colton has any jet lag, he’s not showing it thus far.
“I got back the night before practice day,” he added. “It was just going to depend on how I was going to be able to sleep, and I’m sleeping great. I feel energized and ready to go.”
The Lott brothers will face fifth-seeded skip Dennis Bohn of the Assiniboine Memorial Curling Club, who features Neil Kitching of Stonewall at third and lead Daniel Hunt of Warren, in one of four A-side qualifiers that start at 8:30 a.m. Bohn and company knocked off Daniel Birchard 7-4 on Friday morning.
Only one of the other three A-side qualifiers features an top-eight matchup as Carberry product and Assiniboine Memorial skip Calvert, seeded third, will take on No. 6 William Lyburn, who has a pair of East St. Paul products on his front end in Kyle Doering and Brendan Bilawka.
“The Westman crowd always gets behind him,” Calvert lead Rob Gordon said of his skip. “I remember a few years ago at (provincials) in Brandon, he had a really big crowd support, and if we could ever get to the Brier in Brandon we’d be on cloud nine the entire time. It’s important for us to rally behind him, play well and give the Westman fans a good show.”
Calvert topped Granite’s Trevor Loreth 9-5 on Friday morning and Lyburn knocked Riley Smith, who features Jared Hancox of Woodlands at second, 9-5 in the afternoon.
“Our goal is always to make the final eight and see what happens, so that is really our top priority,” Doering said. “We want to make the eight and play in front of a big crowd on Friday night, and do everything we can to make that final four. I hope we’ll be close.”
However, the biggest upset from Day 2 of the Viterra came from grizzled Terry McNamee. The Brandon Curling Club sent top-seeded Mike McEwen, Reid Carruthers, Derek Samagalski and Colin Hodgson of West St. Paul to the B side with a 9-5 win that included a four-ender in three.
Carruthers’ team, which didn’t include McEwen last year in Winkler, thrashed McNamee 11-1 in an A-side semifinal in 2018, but that result wasn’t replicated on Thursday.
“We only had about 15 games before we came here last year. This year, we probably had 25 or 30, so that makes a difference, too,” McNamee said. “We played a lot the last three weeks, and it shows.”
In his 23rd Viterra, McNamee also noted his team adapted to changing ice conditions better than McEwen and company.
“It did change, for sure, and I think we adapted to it better than they did,” McNamee added. “They were playing lots of touch shots, so it’s kind of hard to throw draws and stuff like that when the ice is like that. We were playing hits, so it’s easier to do that.”
McEwen didn’t seem to be bothered by the loss in the modified double-knockout tourament.
“I’m not too worried about it to be honest. We’re either gonna play well and do well or we’re gonna play badly and not go far,” he said. “There’s no reason why we can’t play well when we need to. This is one of those times.”
McEwen and company rebounded with a 10-1 win over Gladstone’s Jeff Stewart in the evening draw. His team will face Ty Dilello in the B-side semifinals Friday at 12:15 p.m.
Meanwhile, McNamme will take on No. 8 Corey Chambers in another A-side qualifer. Second-seeded Jason Gunnlaugson will battle 23rd seed Ryan Thomson of Morden in the other.
In B-side action, Gimli’s Steen Sigurdson picked up two wins on Thursday — 10-4 over Baldur’s Grant Shewfelt and 7-4 over Grassie — to advance to the semis. He will face Birchard for the chance to play in a qualifying game.
Eriksdale products Tyler and Josh Drews, and their team from the Fort Rouge Curling Club, bowed out of the event following a second straight loss, 8-3 to Stewart.