Saturday, February 7, 2015

Provincial roundup: McEwen confident heading into the weekend . . . one more time

It's the best curling team never to make it to the Brier and once again the squad is rolling in the Manitoba playdowns, getting closer to that elusive Purple Heart. 

Paul Wiecek of the Free Press has the update on Mike McEwen who has qualified for weekend play for the sixth consecutive year in Manitoba and appears confident. (Kudos to Wiecek too, for getting the word trepidatious into his lede.)

So, McEwen was asked Friday morning moments after he qualified for the playoffs for a sixth straight year: Any apprehensions about revisiting this icy boulevard of broken dreams once again? 
"Not yet, " said McEwen with a grin. "But ask me again tomorrow."
That one bit of hesitation might because the guy who has knocked him off the last few years is still hanging around. 

It is Stoughton, after all, who authored three of those McEwen defeats in the final -- and that McEwen semi-final loss too. And Stoughton -- an 11-time Manitoba men's champion -- is once again very much a presence again this weekend, having qualified for the playoff round with an 8-4 win over Daley Peters Friday morning. 
But Stoughton has problems of his own coming into today. Stoughton was thrashed 9-3 by former teammate Reid Carruthers in the opening round of the playoffs Friday night and is in a must-win situation heading into this morning, needing to win back-to-back games today to qualify for the Final 4 championship round that begins tonight.
Stoughton, of course, is the last of the Big Three -- along with Glenn Howard and Kevin Martin -- to have a shot at reaching the Brier. Martin, of course, retired and Howard was knocked out of the playdowns in Ontario. The last time there was a Brier without at least one of those guys was 2005. 

Meanwhile, in other parts of the country, gold medallist Brad Jacobs is a perfect 6-0 in Northern Ontario after beating up on a senior curler, that being Al Hackner who is still getting after it. 

Jacobs wrapped up the day with a 6-4 win over Al Hackner (Fort William Curling Club). After falling behind 5-2, Hackner made things close by scoring a single in the eighth end and stealing one in the ninth before Jacobs scored one in the tenth end to seal the win.

In Alberta, former world junior champ Brendan Bottcher will meet Kevin Koe in the A-B final on Saturday night. It might seem as if Bottcher is overmatched against the former Brier champ with his powerhouse team, but that hasn't been the case this year; Bottcher has deafeted Koe twice already this year which gives them some confidence, as Terry Jones explains: 

“Any time you come up against a team you’ve never been able to beat before, it’s different than when you play a team you’ve been able to beat a couple of times recently,” said the young skip who knocked off Edmonton’s Jamie King in the ‘B’ event final 7-3 here Friday evening. 
“Here, we know. We’re playing really well. And we have had a good year. We’ve beaten a lot of those top teams. Koe was one of them. But they’re obviously playing really well this week, too,” said Bottcher. 

And in Ontario, John Epping and Mark Kean tied atop the leaderboard after the round-robin leaving four teams battling in tiebreakers after the perfect combinations of wins and losses occurred behind them. One of those is veteran Wayne Middaugh who joined the Peter Corner rink mid-week after taking in the Super Bowl.

Kean earned top spot overall, thanks to his win over Epping earlier in the week. His team had to regroup after losing twice on Wednesday and appearing on the ropes, said Toronto Sun's Mike Koreen. 

Kean’s young team regrouped after that setback, eventually clinching a spot in the Page 1-2 playoff game with a 6-2 win over John Epping in a battle for first place on Friday afternoon at the Flight Exec Centre in Dorchester. 
“Since we lost two times in a day, we’ve treated every game like it’s a must-win,” Kean, 26, said. “Wednesday was a very good day for us because it brought us down to earth. Our coach (Bryan Cochrane) told us we were being a little too aggressive. We won our first four games in seven ends and we started to feel invincible. He just told us to simplify things.”

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