Mike McEwen came into the final of the Manitoba Men’s Curling Championship knowing he was going to the Brier. But it still came down to the final shot, and he nailed it to capture his first ever Manitoba title with a 4-2 win over Matt Dunstone.
Dunstone, the Canadian Junior champion, had already committed to the World Juniors, which runs at the same time as the Brier. That meant McEwen would represent Manitoba in Ottawa next month, win or lose. For McEwen, knowing this fact definitely affected the way he played.
“It was such a strange feeling, playing that final. Something I never could have predicted,” McEwen said. “It was a challenge. Never expected to have to focus through a game like that. We didn’t want to go in second place.”
After blanks in the 8th and 9th, things did not go as planned in the 10th for Team McEwen. A botched tick shot, a pair of missed double peels, and all of a sudden they were on skip stones with Dunstone lying two. That’s when McEwen decided to go for it all: raising his own guard into the house to clear the damage, setting up a more open path to win the game on his last rock.
“The shot at the end still felt the same, but everything leading up to it was a challenge. I kinda went with a gut call on the first one, and I felt it then. It waited to build until the very end.”
If he had lost, McEwen says it would have bothered him a little bit, but he says the ultimate goal was always to get to the Brier, regardless of how it happened.
“It wouldn’t keep me up at night. Going to the Brier, it’s just something we haven’t experienced. We want to play for a national championship. We’ve been dreaming of that since we were not big enough to throw rocks halfway down the sheet. I would have taken it either way, it’s just such a weird circumstance that we already had it.”
Full credit must be given to Team Dunstone, who came into the tournament with nothing to lose and played exceptionally all the way until the end.
“They’re going to make me retire early. It’s unbelievable. It’s shocking how good they are,” McEwen raved. “I’d be lucky to carry the broombag if I was their age, how talented that team is.”
For his part, Dunstone took the loss as a great learning experience and believes it will give his squad a boost heading into the World Juniors in Denmark.
“Both teams really wanted it. Playing him in a provincial final, to get a taste at 20-years-old, it’s unbelievable,” Dunstone said. “For us to come here and do what we did, be an inch away from coming out on top, we’re on quite the streak right now. I just want to keep it going.”
Dunstone was also happy for his opponent, who won the title after losing in the final in his five previous attempts.
“I’m really happy for him. He won the game, he earned it now. Nobody more deserving than him. They’re going to be a great rep for us.”
Both the Brier and the World Junior Championships run March 5-13, and both teams made one thing clear Sunday: they will be as tough to beat there as they were in Selkirk this week.