NEUFELD, URSEL TEAMS WIN FOURTH MANITOBA SENIOR TITLES

Manitoba will send a pair of four-time Manitoba Senior champion teams to the 2022 Canadian Seniors in the fall of this year.

Randy Neufeld, Dean Moxham, Peter Nicholls and Dale Michie won together in 2015, 2016 and 2021. They repeated again today in Beausejour – winning a morning semi-final in six ends over Murray Warren (Brandon) and then beating Richard Muntain’s Granite team in the final.

Fourth time champions!! (l-r) Randy Neufeld, Dean Moxham, Peter Nicholls, Dale Michie

Muntain, as Page 1-1 winner, started with last rock and scored a skip’s pair with a draw behind a corned guard on his first, then a draw to the four foot for two after Neufeld came just short trying to follow the first shot. From there, however, it was Neufeld’s game.

He made a runback kill for three on end #2, forced Muntain to a single on #3, and had an open draw for five after Muntain just rubbed attempting a game-saving double (maybe triple) kill. Up 8-3 at the break, Neufeld stole another on the fifth end when Muntain’s hit facing two rolled far enough to require a measure of two rocks biting the four foot.

Facing two more on the sixth end, Muntain drew to the button and conceded the 9-4 victory.

On the Senior Women’s side, Terry Ursel and front end players Tracy Igonia and Brenda Walker won in 2017, 2019 and 2020. Their third Wanda Rainka won in 2019 and 2020, replacing Gwen Wooley who was the third for the Neepawa team’s first championship run.

Like Muntain, Ursel had last rock on the first end and scored a pair. After stealing another on the second and giving up one on the third, Ursel had Judy Colwell looking at three with her last. Colwell removed only one, leaving Ursel a draw for three and a 6-1 lead after four ends. A steal of three more on the fifth ended the game.

Fourth time champions!! (l-r) Terry Ursel, Wanda Rainka, Brenda Walker, Tracy Igonia, 5th Darla Hanke
Randy Neufeld with sweepers Dean Moxham (l) and Dale Michie

(Monday, March 21, 11AM) MUNTAIN-NEUFELD, URSEL-COLWELL SENIOR FINALS: Randy Neufeld and his La Salle team were 7-1 winners over Murray Warren (Brandon) in the Strathcona Senior Men’s semi-final in Beausejour Monday morning. Warren had run a string of six wins to start the event, including a round-robin win over Neufeld, then lost three in a row to bow out of the competition.

The defending champion Neufeld team will now play Richard Muntain’s Granite foursome in the final at 1PM.

The Senior Women’s final will see Terry Ursel and her Neepawa team challenged by Judy Colwell (East St. Paul). Colwell defeated defending champion clubmate Kim Link and her team in the morning semi-final. In a game which featured many stones in play on every end, Colwell scored four singles to open the game. Link had a makeable double for three on the 5th end but didn’t curl up quite enough and scored only one. A steal on the sixth gave Link some hope but a single for Colwell gave her a three-point lead coming home and Link had no shot with her last.

Always stones in play! Last rock (red) to come and yellow counting. The yellow Link counter wasn’t moved but the steal of one (down 4-2) wasn’t enough.

(Sunday, March 20, 6:30PM) MUNTAIN INTO SENIOR MEN’S FINAL, LINK WINS SR WOMEN’S TIEBREAKER: After winning six in row, Murray Warren’s Brandon team lost two games Sunday. They lost their final round-robin game 5-4 to Mike Mahon and then were beaten 4-2 Sunday evening in the Page 1-1 game by Richard Muntain (Granite). Muntain advances direct to the Monday 1PM final.

Warren drops to the morning semi-final against defending champion Randy Neufeld (LaSalle) who eliminated Rob Van Kommer with a 7-1 victory in the Page 2-2 game.

In the Senior Women’s tiebreaker, defending champion Kim Link (East St. Paul) was an 8-4 winner over Norma Purdy in the tiebreaker. Link will play clubmate Judy Colwell in the Monday morning semi-final. The winner advances to play Terry Ursel in the final

(Sunday, March 20, 7PM) VAN KOMMER WINS SR MEN’S TIEBREAKER; LINK-PURDY MEET IN SR WOMEN’S TIEBREAKER: When all the wins and losses were tallied at the end of the Strathcona Senior Men’s round robin Beausejour, Murray Warren (Brandon) has lost his perfect record, but still finished first in his pool. Richard Muntain (Granite) had won a sixth game and finished first in his pool. Randy Neufeld (LaSalle) had won a fifth game and finished second behind Warren.

And two teams, Rob Van Kommer (Carberry) and Allan Gitzel (Morris) were the only teams involved in a tiebreaker game. Both were 5W-2L behind Muntain. Van Kommer won the tiebreaker 7-4 to advance to the Sunday evening Page 2-2 game against former champion Neufeld.

The Page 1-1 game, between Warren and Muntain, will also be played Sunday evening.

It was not as clean and simple in the CurlManitoba Senior Women’s Championship. Three-time former champion Terry Ursel (Neepawa) finished the round-robin in first place with a 6W-1L record. They earn the bye to the provincial final game on Sunday at 1PM.

There is a second place 4W-3L tie between four teams: Judy Colwell, Norma Purdy, Kim Link, and Darcy Robertson. Based on the CurlManitoba tiebreaker policy which involves head-to-head results plus the pre-game button draw and just one tiebreaker game, Judy Colwell (East St. Paul) has been awarded second place. Link (East St. Paul) and Purdy (St Vital) will play a Sunday evening tiebreaker game for the chance to play Colwell Monday morning at 9AM. Robertson is on the outside looking in.

(Saturday, March 19, 10:30PM) WARREN, URSEL ADVANCE TO SENIORS’ PLAYOFFS: Murray Warren and his Deloraine-Melita team, playing out of Brandon, are still unbeaten in the Strathcona Senior Men’s in Beausejour. Their 6W-0L record means that with only a game to play in the round-robin, they cannot be caught and will advance to the playoffs.

In the CurlManitoba Senior Women’s, Terry Ursel and her Neepawa team have a 5W-1L record and are assured of advancing no matter the result of their final game against defending champion Kim Link (East St. Paul), whose record is 4W-2L. A Link win on the noon draw Sunday will mean both will finish at 5W-2L and the two will advance.

In the other Men’s pool, Richard Muntain (Granite) also has a 5W-1L record but advancing is not yet a certainty.

There is great potential for several ties for the other playoff positions and for the tiebreaker scenarios to be implemented.

In Warren’s Senior Men’s Pool, Randy Neufeld (La Salle) is at 4W-2L and plays Ray Baker (Dauphin), who is at 3W-3L, in a re-match of last fall’s final. If Baker wins, both will be at 4W-3L. Two other 3W-3L teams will be cheering for Baker. Mike Mahon (Granite) and Allan Croy (Petersfield) need to win and hope for the Baker win to get into the logjam. Mahon plays Warren. Croy plays 2W-4L Sam Antila (Thompson).

The Muntain pool is even more confused as four teams can finish tied for first at 5W-2L. Muntain plays 4W-2L Neil Okumura (Pembina). Also at 4W-2L, Rob Van Kommer (Carberry), and Allan Gitzel (Morris) can be in that first place tie. Gitzel plays 2W-4L Derek Dowsett (Stonewall) and Van Kommer plays 1W-5L Dale Brooks (Hamiota). Also in the conversation is Dave Boehmer (Petersfield) who is 3W-3L. A Boehmer win over 1W-5L Bill Menzies (Granite), along with losses by Okumura, Van Kommer, and Gitzel would mean a four-way second place tie at 4W-3L.

In the Senior Women’s, there will be a three team playoff with #2 VS #3 and the winner playing #1 but other than Ursel there is no certainty who will be in the playoffs. There is absolutely no clarity yet on positioning.

If Link Beats Ursel, they’ll both be 5W-2L and finish Link #1 and Ursel #2 due to the result of the head-to-head. If Ursel beat Link, Ursel would be 6W-1L and assured of the first place bye and Link would be 4W-3L and tied with some others. For certain either Darcy Robertson (AMCC) or Norma Purdy (St. Vital) will finish 4W-3L as both are currently 3W-3L and they play each other in their final game. Judy Colwell is at 3W-2L with two to play so her East St. Paul team can finish as high as second at 5W-2L, in the 4W-3L tie, OR out of the playoffs at 3W-4L.

(Friday, March 18, 11PM) WARREN LAST UNBEATEN AT BEAUSEJOUR SENIORS: Murray Warren’s Brandon team, the reigning Manitoba Masters Champion are the last unbeaten team in the two Manitoba Senior championship events in Beausejour. Warren needed an extra end for a 5-4 victory over Sam Antila on the late draw Friday.

The other previously unbeaten men’s team, skipped by Richard Muntain, was beaten 10-4 by Allan Gitzel, whose record is now 3W-1L. Gitzel is tied with Dave Boehmer and Rob Van Kommer in second place in their pool. Behind Warren in the other group are Mike Mahon and Randy Neufeld at 3W-1L.

In the Senior Women’s, Norma Purdy was beaten for the first time on Friday, a 10-3 loss to Marlene Lang. With Purdy at 3W-1L are Terry Ursel and Kim Link. Darcy Robertson lost on the late draw, 8-2 to Laurie Deprez, and has a 2W-2L record.

(Friday, 5PM) PURDY, WARREN & MUNTAIN LEAD MASTERS CHAMPIONSHIPS AT 3W-0L: Norma Purdy , with a win over Judy Colwell, leads the Senior Women’s in Beausejour with a perfect 3W-0L record. Colwell is a 2W-1L along with Darcy Robertson, Kim Link, and Terry Ursel.

Murray Warren and Richard Muntain, at 3W-OL, lead the two pools in the Senior Men’s in Beausejour. Behind Warren, at 2W-1L are Randy Neufeld and Mike Mahon. Behind Muntain, at 2W-1L, are Rob Van Kommer, Dave Boehmer, and Allan Gitzel.

(Friday 8AM) PLAY UNDERWAY IN SENIORS & MIXED PROVINCIALS: Play began with all teams playing two games in the Manitoba Senior Men’s and Women’s Championships in Beausejour and in the Mixed provincials in Carman. It is round-robin play in both Beausejour events and triple knock-out in Carman.

In the Senior Women’s, Judy Colwell (East St. Paul) and Norma Purdy (St. Vital) and their teams both posted a pair of wins while four other teams split their two opening day games. Colwell defeated defending champion clubmate Kim Link (10-7) and Darcy Robertson (5-2) while Purdy had victories over Sandra Cowling (14-1) and Laurie Deprez (5-4).

In the Senior Men’s, defending champion Randy Neufeld (La Salle) was one of 10 teams to split their first day pair. Only three teams survived the day with two wins. Masters champion Murray Warren (Brandon) leads one eight-team pool with a 2-0 record while Richard Muntain (Granite) and Dave Boehmer (Petersfield) lead the other pool at 2-0.

(Wednesday, March 16) FIVE CHAMPIONSHIP EVENTS FOR MANITOBANS TO WATCH THIS WEEKEND!!: It will be a great weekend for Manitoba curling fans.  TV fans will be cheering for Kerri Einarson and Team Canada as they kick off the Women’s Worlds in Prince George with two games on Saturday. Two year’s experience wearing the maple leaf puts them in a good place going into the event. Six teams make the playoffs so that they should be among those. Then it is a case of luck of the draw – they should get close and certainly have the ability to win it but with Tirinzoni and Hasselborg in the competition, that’s the furthest I’ll go in the way of a prediction.

Also this weekend, CurlManitoba has three events for fans who like their championship curling in person.

(Wednesday) The Chicken Mixed Chef in Carman begins Thursday evening with 13 entries playing a triple knock-out with six teams advancing to the playoffs. Always interesting to pick a favorite when teams rarely play together more than year or two but 3-time Mixed Champion Sean Grassie has name recognition and he also lost the 2021 Mixed final; Steve Irwin and Stacey Fordyce, both three time Clubs Champions, team together in a tough to beat combo; brother-sister combo Brett (a former Manitoba junior champ) & Meghan (former Mixed Manitoba & World Champ) Walter, should contend, as might Justin Richter with Tyler & Brandi Forrest (half of the 2021 Manitoba Mixed Champion team) and Sara Oliver (also a former World Mixed champ) at lead. The playoffs take place Sunday with the final at 5PM.

I’d bet I have named the eventual winner in those four. If pressed further, I might suggest either Walter or Irwin in the final against Grassie.

Kim Links’ 2021 Manitoba Senior Women’s Champion Team (Curling Canada photo)

The CurlManitoba Senior Women’s begins Thursday at 9AM in Beausejour with eight entries. The skips of the last seven Manitoba Senior Women’s champions and eight champions in total, with many of their teammates, have entries in the event. All are competitive at this level, making for an interesting competition. They include Laurie Deprez (2012), Sandra Cowling (2016), Terry Ursel (2017-19-20). Also included is defending champion Kim Link who also won in 2015 and 2018. The credentials of the other teams are also impressive. Norma Purdy skipped the finalist team at the 2021 Senior Women’s at Pembina last fall. Marlene Lang won the Club Champions Championship in 2015 and 2020 and Judy Colwell, a semi-finalist in the Club Champions event in 2020. Darcy Robertson rounds out the field. She will go into the Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame later this year with her 1984 Junior team. There would be interesting career symmetry to winning a senior title in the same year and this team certainly has the credentials. The three team playoff is Monday, with #2 & #3 playing and the winner playing #1 at 1:00PM.

Obviously I have named the winner since I have named all eight teams. If pressed I’d bet on Robertson being in the final. Any one of the teams could beat her in a one-game showdown but I think I’d pick Robertson to win it.

Randy Neufeld’s 2021 Manitoba Senior Men’s Team (Curling Canada photo)

The Strathcona Trust Senior Men’s also begins at 9AM Thursday in Beausejour and runs through until the final at 1PM Monday. Sixteen teams have qualified in the traditional regional and berth spiels model. They play an eight game round robin with a Page Playoff at the end. The gold standard for teams at the Manitoba Senior level is set by Randy Neufeld whose team has been intact since winning the 2015 and 2016 Manitoba titles enroute to a 2016 World Silver medal. They lost the Manitoba final to Dave Boehmer in 2020 and beat Ray Baker to win again in 2021 at Pembina. Boehmer has a completely different team than he won Manitoba with back-to-back-to-back in 2018, 2019, and 2020. Dean Dunstone on the roster makes this an interesting and very competitive team. Baker came close at the 2021 event and has the same team that almost won. He’d love to be the first sitting CurlManitoba President to win a championship during his term. The field represents the best across Manitoba but the other serious contenders are likely to be a pair of Masters teams: Murray Warren’s 2020 Manitoba Masters champs and Bill Menzies, who won the 2007 Seniors with Lionel Walz and whose team (including himself) has won a total of seven Masters ‘buffaloes’ since 2016.

Again, if pressed, I’d bet on Neufeld being in the final against one of the teams I’ve named. Flip a coin against Boehmer and give Neufeld the edge over the other three.

The other event which is happening this weekend is the Manitoba Stick Curling Association’s 2-Person Stick Open Championship at Assiniboine Memorial, beginning Friday morning. It is a quick game played with 6 rocks per side and only 6 ends. Like Mixed Doubles, it has its own unique set of rules and skills – in particular the ability to draw the button without sweeping (under the rules, no sweeping is allowed between the hoglines). You’ll see a lot of rocks in play and great entertainment from this version of the game played competitively. Teams to beat include Barry Tall and Jim Webster from Swan River, reigning Manitoba Open Champions and the Winnipeg team of Gwen Smith and Lynne Rehbein, reigning Maniotoba Women’s Champions. Both teams are preparing for the Canadian Open Championship in Moncton in mid-April. Others who will contend for this year’s Manitoba title include Tom & Rae Campbell from Killarney, the 2018 Canadian Champions; the Warren/Marquette duo of Jim Rouse and Ross MacMillan, the 2015 Canadian Champions; and St. Vital’s Warren Johnson & Dan McDonald team. Johnson is a past Canadian Champion who won the Manitoba title with different partners in 2012 and 2017. 

As for predicting the winner – not a chance! I am playing in the event with Norm Magnusson and I see no point in stirring the fire.

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