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BC’s Ursel and McAulay win openers

Bob Ursel entered Prince George on a roll, and didn’t lose any momentum Tuesday afternoon during the men’s opening round of the Road to the Roar pre-Trials, presented by Monsanto.

Ursel’s rink from Kelowna, B.C., scored three points in the first end, stole two in the second, and went on to defeat Edmonton’s Ted Appelman 11-7 in an A-event, round-of-16 clash. His foursome advances to Tuesday night’s late-finishing ‘A’ quarter-final against the tournament’s No. 1 seed, Jeff Stoughton of Winnipeg.

“It was a good start for us. We really wanted to come into this relaxed, and try to play a clean few ends,” said Ursel, the No. 9 seed at these pre-Trials, who started the 2009-10 season with victory at the CurlTV.com September Shootout in Edmonton, and followed that up on the cashspiel circuit with a runner-up spot in Vernon, B.C., and another win in New Westminster, B.C.

“This is the pinnacle of curling,” said Ursel, of participating in Canada’s Olympic playdowns. “All these teams have been put together for the last four years. That’s why you’ve got out-of-province players playing with each other — (Kevin) Park playing with Stoughton, (Don) Walchuk playing with (Kerry) Burtnyk, (Jon) Mead playing with (Wayne) Middaugh. Those guys are all chasing the Olympic dream.”

No. 8 seed Appelman, who won the Kamloops Crown of Curling event in late October, clawed his way back into Tuesday’s game with three points in the sixth to make it 7-5, but Ursel’s team, with Jim Cotter throwing fourth rocks, struck back with three of his own in the seventh to salt it away.

“Down five, that’s tough to come back on any team. You’re just trying to win the rest of the ends and build some momentum for the next game,” said Appelman, who drops to a B-event round-of-16 game on Wednesday.

“It’s not that we lost it right away, but the percentage of winning is very slim at that point. Especially against Ursel . . . that’s a great team.”

Also during Tuesday’s opening men’s draw, Winnipeg’s Burtnyk, seeded fifth, counted four in the seventh end, breaking open a close game to land the knockout blow against Beausejour’s No. 12-seeded Jason Gunnlaugson in an all-Manitoba meeting that ended up 8-3 in Burtnyk’s favour.

“We had him in trouble. I made a hit-and-roll behind the guard with the out-turn through the port,” said Burtnyk, a two-time Brier winner and a world champion in 1995. “He tried an in-turn but went too deep, and left it open, and I was able to make essentially the same out-turn shot with my last one for the four.

“It’s essential to get off to a good start in something like this,” added Burtnyk, who advances to an A-event quarterfinal later Tuesday against No. 4 seed Mike McEwen. “You want to get rid of the pre-event jitters, get off on the right foot, get some confidence going.”

Elsewhere, former world champion Greg McAulay of Richmond, B.C., seeded No. 11, caught a break for a 6-4 win over No. 6 seed Joel Jordison of Moose Jaw, Sask.

With the score tied 4-4, Jordison was attempting an in-turn draw to the centre of the house with his final rock of the 10th end, but the stone was light, overcurled and wrecked on McAulay’s shot rock, giving McAulay a deuce and the win.

“We didn’t feel real good after the second end, when we gave them a steal of three,” said McAulay, who was slated to face 2006 Olympic gold medalist Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., in a late-finishing ‘A’ quarterfinal Tuesday.

“We didn’t really deserve that one, but that’s curling. We haven’t had those all year, but we’ve given a couple away. It’s nice to get one back once in a while.”

In Tuesday’s other first-round affair, No. 10-seeded Pat Simmons of Moose Jaw, Sask., tallied a brace in the seventh end for a 6-2 advantage, and went on to a 7-4 win over No. 7 seed Jean-Michel Menard of St-Romuald, Que.

“We played some really good ends, got out of some ends where we were in a little bit of trouble, and then played a really solid second half of the game,” said Simmons, who advanced to an ‘A’ quarterfinal against Toronto’s No. 2-seeded Wayne Middaugh later Tuesday.

The women’s A-qualifying quarter-finals were slated to begin at 4:30 p.m. PT Tuesday, with 2007 world champion Kelly Scott of Kelowna facing 1998 Canadian champion Cathy King of Edmonton, Sherry Anderson of Saskatoon playing Michelle Englot of Regina, Marie-France Larouche of St-Romuald, Que., tangling with 20-year-old Rachel Homan of Ottawa, and Sherry Middaugh of Coldwater, Ont., taking on Crystal Webster of Calgary.