BY DAVID LARKINS, Wesmen Athletics
A few inches here or there left the Winnipeg Wesmen on the outside looking in on a national championship celebration.
The Alberta Golden Bears stole a point in the fifth end and held the Wesmen men's curling team off from there to secure a 6-4 victory in the U SPORTS national championship match Wednesday afternoon in Leduc, Alta.
The win completed a sweep of men's and women's titles for U of A. The silver medal represents Winnipeg's finest finish in program history.
The fifth end would prove to be damaging in the end to the Wesmen, who gave up a single in the fourth that broke a 2-2 tie. In the fifth, with the Wesmen holding the hammer, a packed house had Alberta sitting one inches from the button. Winnipeg skip J.T. Ryan's draw to the button skirted just a fraction of an inch too far and allowed the Bears to extend their lead to 4-2.
The Wesmen were left to play from behind the rest of the way. They managed to cut the lead in half with a single in the sixth but there was a feeling of missed opportunity after Ryan's last-rock draw for a chance at two was short and Winnipeg had to settle for the one.
A blanked seventh followed by an Alberta point in the eighth restored the two-point edge and put the onus on the Wesmen to get aggressive in the final two ends.
Ryan's last rock in the ninth was brilliant. With Alberta sitting shot stone and just a tiny window in which to place his shot, Ryan was spot-on with a perfectly-placed draw to the button that kept U of W's hopes alive.
In the 10th, Ryan was again forced to push the envelope with his two shots and Alberta holding the hammer. Needing to play aggressive on his last shot, Ryan put it through the house and the Bears were able to walk away without firing a final rock.
Lead Rob Gordon and third Kyle Doering were both honoured as first-team all-Canadians at the awards banquet later Wednesday, while Ryan was named second-team all-Canadian.
Doering was also honoured with the R.W. Pugh Sportsmanship Award.