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Manitoba men, New Brunswick women prevail at WFG Canadian Seniors

Manitoba’s Kelly Robertson and New Brunswick’s Heidi Hanlon emerged victorious at the World Financial Group Canadian Seniors in Digby, Nova Scotia on Saturday.

The 52-year-old Hanlon, an 11-time Scotties veteran for New Brunswick, scored her province’s first ever victory in the Canadian senior women’s championship, besting Ontario’s Joyce Potter, 8-6.

Meanwhile, Robertson’s Neepawa team, which had suffered just one loss during the week, that being a 7-5 decision to Alberta’s Brad Hannah of Edmonton, while finishing first with a 10-1 mark, avenged that loss in the only game that really mattered, winning by the same score.

Today’s women’s final turned in the 8th end, when Hanlon counted four for a 7-5 lead.

“Joyce was going for a double but she went right through the hole, so I had a chance to draw for four,” explained Hanlon, whose best performance at the Scotties was a runner-up placing in 1991, when losing the final to British Columbia’s Julie Sutton in Saskatoon.

But the game wasn’t quite over. After Ottawa’s Potter took one in the ninth, Hanlon was forced to throw her final stone in the 10th end.

“She had one in the 12-foot, but it was pretty well open, so I hit it for the win.”

Last year, Hanlon lost the World Financial Group Canadian Senior final to British Columbia’s Christine Jurgenson in Ottawa, 10-6, giving up five in the ninth end, so she knew what it was like to come up a little short.

Hanlon, a registered nurse, came into this year’s event on a guardedly optimistic note.

“Once we got curling, we really started feeling a lot better about it,” she explained. “There were less nerves this year going into the final weekend. Last year, the nerves were a little bit more.”

Her Saint John Thistle-Saint Andrews team of third Kathy Floyd, another 11-time Scotties participant, second Judy Blanchard and lead Jane Arseneau came through with a championship performance, firing 78% overall, with Hanlon holding an 80%-68% edge over Potter, the 2005 Canadian senior champion.

Potter and Hanlon had finished tied for top spot with 9-2 records, but Potter earned a direct berth into the final by virtue of her 7-5 win over Hanlon in Draw 11. That meant Hanlon went to the semi-final, where she defeated Saskatchewan’s Delores Syrota, 8-5 to set up the rematch with Potter.

Hanlon’s team will now represent Canada at next year’s World Seniors, at a date and site still to be announced.

“As long as I get one of those (Team Canada) jackets, I don’t care,” Hanlon said. “I heard that (New Brunswick had never won the Senior women’s since it began in 1973), but now we have.”

For the 54-year-old Robertson, a grain and cattle farmer from Neepawa, it was the biggest win of his lengthy career. He’d also skipped at the 2003 Canadian Mixed in Abbotsford, finishing with a 6-5 mark, when substituting for Mike McEwen at the national championship.

Robertson’s team of third Doug Armour (who played in the 1982 Labatt Brier as third for Mel Logan), Peter Prokopowich at second and lead Bob Scales, seemed in control throughout the contest over Alberta, which had also qualified for the final by edging Newfoundland and Labrador’s Jeff Thomas, 6-5 in Friday’s semi-final.

It was a leading 11th Canadian senior men’s title for Manitoba since 1965, but first since Carl German won in St. Thomas, Ontario in 2002.

The Robertson foursome fired a red-hot 87%, with the skip registering a blistering 84% in the 7-5 win.

“When we stole that point (in the fifth end), it was kind of a big one,” said Robertson. “We held the lead pretty well. The boys were hitting pretty well.

“It’s certainly the biggest win of my career – a national curling championship – it’s just unbelievable. We felt pretty good coming here. We’ve been kicking around the province for quite a while. The problem is we’ve got (Jeff) Stoughton and (Kerry) Burtnyk and those guys in men’s. We’ve been as high as the fourth team in the province. We know we can play.”

On representing Canada next year at the World Seniors, Robertson added, “It’s going to be fantastic. It’s just a dream come true.”

Last year’s Canadian Seniors winners, British Columbia’s Christine Jurgenson and Alberta’s Mark Johnson, are representing Canada at this year’s World Seniors, April 16-23 in St. Paul, Minnesota.