It came right down to the wire for local curler Matt Dumontelle, as he and his Horne Granite Curling Club rink live to see another day.
The NOCA (Northern Ontario Curling Association) men's East Qualifiers and the Bantam Boys and Girls Regional playdowns were held over the weekend, with several local teams advancing to the next round of competition.
At the Copper Cliff Curling Club, both Mike Jakubo (Copper Cliff) and Robbie Gordon (Sudbury) recorded three straight victories in the opening four draws, avoiding the head-to-head confrontation on Jan. 13 by virtue of the fact the tandem had secured two of the three spots that were up for grabs.
That would leave Dumontelle and his new crew duking it out with Laurentian University hopeful Dustin Montpellier (Copper Cliff), with the former scoring a pair in the 10th end in order to escape with a 7-6 win.
Dumontelle has teamed, this year, with Timmins native Dave MacInnes, as well as Steve Burnett and Jeremy Landry, while Montpellier joined forces with Matt Mann, Carson Scarr and Gordon Minty.
Coming off an appearance at the Canadian Senior Curling Championships in 2012, Gordon and his team of Ron Henderson, Dion Dumontelle and Doug Hong, appear to be in store for a very busy month or two, yet again.
Receiving the bye on Jan. 11, Gordon swept aside Dumontelle (6-5 in an extra end), Jordan Chandler of North Bay (5-2) and Montpellier (9-0) on Jan. 12, finishing in a first-place tie with Jakubo.
Jakubo, a two-time Northern Ontario Briar representative, was curling with Matt Seabrook, Sandy MacEwan and Lee Toner, keeping pace with Gordon with victories over Dumontelle (10-5), Chandler (7-4) and Montpellier (6-3).
Gordon, Jakubo and Dumontelle have now qualified for the NOCA Provincials in Nipigon from Feb. 6-10. The remaining rinks can still enter the Challenge Rounds, with the Eastern event slated for Espanola Jan. 18-20.
In North Bay, meanwhile, the Krysta Burns and Tanner Horgan rinks, both representing the Idylwylde Golf and Country Club and both having earned medals at the Ontario Winter Games last winter, safely worked their way through to provincials.
While Team Horgan (Dakota Allerston, Jacob Horgan, Martin Gravel, Maxime Blais) was the only boys team to advance from the Region 5 and 6 playdowns, Burns will have some familiar company in Sioux Lookout next month.
Adding newcomer Cynthia Furlotte to the familiar presence of Monica Graham and Sara Guy, Burns posted a record of 3-1, identical to that of Megan Smith (Sudbury) and Calli Barclay of North Bay.
Smith was joined by Kira Brunton, Bailey Foy and Mikaela Cheslock, beating Burns 7-2 out of the gate and adding wins over both Sarah-Ann Guay of Kapuskasing (6-5) and Sydnie Stinson of Copper Cliff (12-1).
Burns bounced back from her Game 1 defeat to subdue Barclay (9-2), Guay (8-3) and Stinson (11-1). Stinson did not manage to hit the win column, but still got her feet wet with teammates Leah McDermid, Callie Gibson and Brooklyn Clark.
On the boys' side of the draw, Horgan and company cruised to first place, sweeping back-to-back games against both Sudbury's Sam Cull (6-2 and 10-5) and Philippe Gareau (8-3 and 8-1), also representing the Idylwylde.
The Cull rink included Liam Brunton, Andrew Kohut, Max Cull and Scott Foy while the Gareau quartet also featured Ethan Urban, Patrick Huska and Lachlan Fraser.
The ladies will take centre stage immediately following the Men's Eastern Challenge as Tracy Horgan, Jennifer Horgan, Jenna Enge and Amanda Gates attempt to defend their Ontario title at the Provincial Scotties in Kitchener.
Play begins on Jan. 21, running right through to Jan. 27.