BY DAVID LARKINS, Wesmen Athletics
The Winnipeg Wesmen were on the right side of the inches Tuesday and now the U of W men's curling team will play for a national title.
The Wesmen beat the Regina Cougars 6-2 in a must-win game Tuesday afternoon to close out round-robin play at the U SPORTS curling championships in Leduc, Alta., and then secured a come-from-behind 5-4 victory over the Waterloo Warriors in a semifinal later in the night to earn a berth in the national championship game to be played Wednesday afternoon.
The Wesmen will have another shot at their Canada West rival Alberta Golden Bears in the national title game that will start at 1 p.m. CT.
To get there the Wesmen needed a break or two, not the least of which was a heavy draw from Waterloo skip John Willsey with last rock in the 10th end of the semifinal. With the Wesmen sitting two in the final end, and trailing 4-3, Willsey needed to draw to the eight-foot and went inches too far, allowing the Wesmen to steal two and book a berth in their first national championship game.
"Out of his hand, I thought it was good. They were sweeping it and that is never a good sign," third Kyle Doering said.
With his last rock, Doering was able to draw around a corner guard to sit in the eight-foot while Waterloo had a rock in the back 12-foot. After the Warriors peeled the guard, Wesmen skip J.T. Ryan split the house and rested his shot on the other side of the eight-foot. Willsey played a hit on Ryan's stone and Ryan replied the same way, setting the table for Willsey's decision to draw.
"He slid about two inches too far, back 12, and we won by the skin of our teeth," Doering said.
The Wesmen team of lead Rob Gordon, second Ty Dilello, Doering and Ryan trailed 2-0 after five ends with Waterloo scoring a single with last rock in the third and stealing one in the fifth. Winnipeg got back in it with two in the sixth end, but a deuce from Waterloo in seven gave the Warriors a 4-2 lead. Winnipeg replied with a single in the eighth and the Warriors blanked the ninth.
To even make the four-team playoff round, the Wesmen were put in do-or-die mode earlier Tuesday needing a win over Regina to hold firm in the top four. After scoring three with last rock in the first end, the Wesmen gave up back-to-back singles as the Cougars clawed back into the game. The Wesmen, however, blanked the next five ends to carry last rock into the ninth, where they scored three before the Cougars shook hands.
"It's been a real roller coaster," Doering said. "We've had moments of sheer brilliance and we've had moments of absolute dreadfulness I would say. It's kind of been everything you can think of in one tournament. That means we have run into the good teams and the hot skips and we got a break tonight."
The championship is a showdown of two teams thought to be the class of the event and a rubber match of sorts. Winnipeg handled Alberta during the western regional playdowns, but was defeated by the Golden Bears in round-robin play of nationals.
"It's kind of right where we want to be, against Alberta," Doering said. "We kind of thought if we played well we'd be in this spot and we are. I think it's a matter of executing. They are playing very well right now so we are going to be in tough, but I think we've just got to execute and see what happens. I think we've got a chance."