PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE – After years of heartbreak and coming up short, Mike McEwen is the champion of Manitoba for the second straight year.
Thanks to a four-ender in the 8th, McEwen knocked off Reid Carruthers 8-7 in an entertaining back-and-forth affair in Portage. The match featured just one blank and four lead changes.
McEwen got the cushion in the 8th but still had to earn the win, hitting against three on his final shot in the 10th.
It was everything you would want in a final: great tension, top-notch shot making and a game that went down to the final shot. And for Team McEwen, this one tasted even sweeter than last year, especially given the fact that this team almost fell apart in recent months.
“That’s the best we’ve ever played, start to finish, in a provincial championship,” a smiling McEwen explained. “How much more united we felt after getting to the cliff, feeling like it was done, and being able to turn it around, feels so much more satisfying than even that huge hurdle we had last year.”
In 2016, McEwen got the monkey off his back, finished 7-4 in Ottawa and lost in the bronze medal game to Brad Jacobs. Now, he’s going back to the Brier hungry, no longer a rookie but a repeat provincial champion.
“It was a whirlwind last time. I don’t think I knew whether I was coming or going,” McEwen said. “It kind of flew by so fast because you don’t really feel like you can slow it down, and I feel like this time around, we’ll be really well prepared to represent Manitoba well. It’s going to be a really tough battle, it’s a really strong field, but I’m excited. That building is going to be fun.”
For Carruthers, it’ll be a game he looks back on with regret. It was the 8th end in which the tides turned for him in his page playoff win over McEwen, with the opponent’s final rock picking. On this day, nothing went right for his squad in the pivotal frame, leaving McEwen an open hit for four.
“A couple missed shots, a couple missed line calls, the rocks were really spread out, we didn’t really have much to hide around. Both my stones were heavy so I didn’t give my team a chance to make a good freeze,” mulled the losing skip. “My team played really well. It wasn’t our best week, but this is probably the worst game for myself. I didn’t play my best and they outplayed us, so they deserved to win.”
It’s a loss that will sting for Carruthers, but if anyone can empathize with him, it’s Mike McEwen, who has now won two finals after losing five. He says it’s been a few years since he’s been to St. John’s, but when he throws on that yellow jacket on The Rock, he’ll be ready.
“It’s a fun place. They’ve got great restaurants, the people are amazing there. And they’re going to be huge fans of Team Newfoundland in that building so I expect it to be loud and a lot of fun.”
The Brier gets underway March 2.