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Middaugh, Ursel on collision course

Fans at the CN Centre witnessed a couple of righteous rebounds Wednesday afternoon.

After absorbing potentially devastating defeats in the ‘A’ draw on Tuesday night, Toronto’s Wayne Middaugh and Kelowna’s Bob Ursel bounced back in first-round ‘B’ event qualifying play at the Road to the Roar pre-Trials, presented by Monsanto.

Middaugh, ranked No. 2 at this triple-knockout tournament, scored an 11-6 win over No. 11 seed Greg McAulay of Richmond, B.C., pulling away with four points in the 10th and final end.

Less than 24 hours previous, Middaugh’s final shot picked in the rings during a 9-6 defeat to Pat Simmons of Davidson, Sask.

“I think I picked twice, on the way down, in that last end. Not once, but twice,” said Middaugh, a two-time Brier and world champion. “You’re going to lose some games somewhere along the way, but you just try and play well and hopefully the breaks even out in the long run.

“The guys gave us enough chances to win, but I didn’t finish it off for them (Tuesday),” added Middaugh. “The guys are all veterans, and we played what was probably one of the best games we’ve played all year today. If I’d played a little better today, we could have probably had more control of that game too.”

Four men’s tickets and four women’s tickets are up for grabs at Prince George this week to the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Canadian Curling Trials in Edmonton in early December.

Ursel, too, showed resiliency on Wednesday, building up a 4-0 lead after two ends and coasting to an 8-3 win over Winnipeg’s fifth-ranked Kerry Burtnyk. On Tuesday night, he’d surrendered a steal of five to Jeff Stoughton in a 7-1 defeat that dropped him down to the ‘B’ event.

“That was a hell of a shot (a double-raise double) that Jeff made against us,” praised Ursel, ranked ninth here at the CN Centre. “The linescore was funny there . . . if he misses that, we probably win the game and get three, going up two with two ends left. But he makes it, we miss a draw, and it’s game over.

“But we’ve been bouncing back all year,” added Ursel, an RCMP officer who once lived in Prince George. “We haven’t taken our losses very hard at all, and they’re going to come. We’re all going to lose. That’s why it’s a triple-knockout here.”

Middaugh and Ursel are on a collision course, slated to meet in a ‘B’-event quarterfinal on Thursday evening at 6:30 p.m. PT. Burtnyk and McAulay are down to their last chance, and will square off in a ‘C1’ quarterfinal on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. PT, with the loser out of Olympic chances.

Ursel’s team “made a lot of shots, and we got behind the eight-ball early,” said Burtnyk, a two-time Brier champion and a 1995 world titleist. “I myself am struggling a little bit with being able to put my draw shots in the right spot. They seem to be two feet heavy or two feet light, and I have to get a handle on that in order to straighten things out.”

How does Burtnyk approach his final kick at the can? “Well, it’s no different than how we’ve approached it so far,” he said. “We’ve still got a shot left. We only have to win three games, and that’s not far from impossible. We’ll come out tomorrow, try to get a win under our belt, and build some momentum.”

Elsewhere, No. 7-ranked Jean-Michel Menard of St-Romuald, Que., topped No. 6 seed Joel Jordison of Moose Jaw, Sask., 9-6, while Edmonton’s Ted Appelman, ranked No. 8, outscored 12th-seeded Jason Gunnlaugson of Beausejour, Man., 10-8.

Menard and Appelman will face the losers of Wednesday’s ‘A’-event semifinals on Thursday at 8:30 a.m. PT and 12:30 p.m. PT, respectively, in two other ‘B’ quarterfinals. Jordison and Gunnlaugson also have their backs to the wall, and will face each other in a ‘C1’ quarterfinal on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. PT.

“The first five ends, I think we played really well,” said Menard, the 2006 Brier winner. “But we fell asleep for the sixth, seventh and eighth ends, so there’s still some improvement to be done if we want to get a crack at one of those four spots. At least we were able to rebound in the ninth end and get a big three-ender to seal the game.”

Wednesday’s 4:30 p.m. PT draw features both women’s ‘A’ semifinals —No. 1 Kelly Scott of Kelowna, B.C., versus No. 12 Sherry Anderson of Saskatoon, and No. 6 Rachel Homan of Ottawa versus Calgary’s seventh-ranked Crystal Webster — as well as one men’s ‘A’ semifinal, an all-Winnipeg affair featuring No. 1 seed Jeff Stoughton against No. 4-ranked Mike McEwen.