The 2020 Manitoba Viterra Championship gets underway on Wednesday, Feb. 5 in Winnipeg, with two Virden rinks competing among the top 32 Manitoba teams.
Playing for Team Freeman: Dwayne Barkley, Cory Barkley, Brooks Freeman and skip Graham Freeman; Kevin Barkley as spare.
Kelly McMechan from Delorain will coach Team Freeman. McMechan played third for Duane Edwards, the 1990 Manitoba Mens Provincial Champs. “We played with Kelly for many years…” said Cory Barkley.
Playing for Team Kinnaird: Tyler Strachan (Virden), Chris Mannle (Moosomin), Cory Zdan (Winnipeg) and Jay Kinnaird as Skip/Fourth; Kris Kinnaird as spare.
Right out of the hack for the 4 p.m. draw Wednesday, Team Freeman, seeded 16th place, meets 17th seed, Jordan Smith (Deer Lodge Curling Club). It’s a team they haven’t played, but Barkley says, “We've curled a couple of guys on his team over the years.”
The Freeman rink has been playing regular games in the Westman Super League and in a couple of bonspiels, but they haven’t put in the hours that some teams come to provincials with. Barkley says, “Our biggest challenge will likely be our lack of curling this winter.”
A win up front will pit them against the top seed.
“If we win our first game, we are lined up to play Mike McEwen which would be great. We played Mike and Reid (Carruthers) many times over the years, but not for awhile, so I think we'd really like to do that.”
“keep things close in every game” -Kinnaird
Team Kinnaird is playing their first Viterra championship. They’re matched up against one of the top seeds, William Lyburn from Winnipeg’s Granite Curling Club. The draw is the same 4 p.m. Wednesday timeslot.
Jay Kinnaird looks forward to that first draw.
“We are looking forward to playing Willy, they have had lots of success playing on the tour over the years, and were runner up to McEwen last year in Virden. We got to play them in the Manitoba Open a few weeks ago on the Friday late draw at the Thistle Curling Club. Both teams were definitely in it for the social aspect of that bonspiel, and we had a great game, losing on last rock.”
Country rinks have major adjustments to make at this provincial level of play.
“[Greg] Ewasko is one of the best Ice makers in the world, so the rocks and ice will be perfect like you would watch on TV. It will be challenging, because arena ice generally curls a lot more than club ice like we are used to.”
Kinnaird knows what his team has to do.
“We will be trying to simplify the game… not to overthink any situation, and concentrate on making one shot at a time.”
He says that as a first-timers, underdogs, they are going to” enjoy the experience and try and keep things close in every game. If we keep the score tight until the end, we have a chance to win every game.”
This is the first time Virden Curling Club has sent two teams, at least in recent history.
“There are a few other Westman teams...so our region is well represented,” said Kinnaird. “We will be asking Graham and the guys for some pointers, they've been there many times.”
“It will be great to have Jay and his team there, as well as other Virden guys; Darcy Hayward with team North and Branden Jorgensen with team Marnoch,” says Barkley. “It adds to the experience, sharing it with old and new club mates and we hope Jay and his guys have a great first experience there.”
Top seeds in this year’s event are defending champion Mike McEwen (Reid Carruthers as third), followed by Jason Gunnlaugson, Tanner Horgan, Braden Calvert and William Lyburn respectively.
The teams head into Winnipeg on Tuesday for a 30-minute practice and the evening banquet, to be ready to curl Wednesday at the Eric Coy Arena.
The winner of the Feb 5 – 9 Viterra bonspiel will represent Manitoba in the Tim Hortons Brier in Kingston, Ont.