PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE — For the third time in four years, Winnipeg’s own Mike McEwen has claimed the Canad Inns Prairie Classic crown.
The McEwen foursome soared past four-time world champion Glenn Howard 6-2 in the tournament final Monday night, capitalizing on a sixth-end gaffe by Howard that allowed McEwen to steal three points and then hold on for the win.
In the first end, McEwen wielded the hammer for a single point. Howard blanked the second, then collected two in the third to leapfrog ahead. Team McEwen replied with a deuce of their own in the fourth to take a 3-2 lead, then watched as Howard used his final rock in the fifth to wipe the house clean and carry the hammer into the next end.
In the sixth frame, everything changed. McEwen and his team filled up the house, laying three yellow rocks on the inside of a lonely blue stone, then threw up a wall of guards to choke off Howard’s shot options. On the final rock of the end, Howard and his team agreed to throw a draw around the mess for a single point, but that plan didn’t work out: Howard’s shot, the last of the game, came in light and slowed to a halt before the button.
With that miss, the McEwen rink stole three, good enough to grab a 6-2 lead with only two frames left to play.
Only one was needed, though: the teams shook hands before the end of the seventh, with Howard unable to come up with enough rocks to have a chance to win.
The victory capped off a perfect run for Team McEwen, which sailed undefeated through the four-day tournament at Portage Curling Club. McEwen now becomes the first winner of the Dave Elias Trophy, named after the Manitoban curler and Prairie Classic veteran who died earlier this year.
McEwen punched his ticket to the final with a wacky finish over Saskatchewan’s Brock Virtue Monday afternoon. The two teams battled close through their semifinal game, with the score tied at five going into the eighth end. But if Virtue was angling to steal a point, that plan vanished when his rink’s first two rocks failed to make it past the hog line.
With those first two rocks voided from the field of play, all McEwen had to do was take out the rest of Virtue’s rocks one by one, then make a simple draw into the inner ring to take the point and win the game.
"That was strange," McEwen said after the final handshake. "I don’t think I’ve ever seen that... but it was kinda like, ‘I don’t know what this is, but good for us I guess.’"
While that was happening, Alberta’s Kevin Koe was embroiled in a battle against Howard. Koe, last year’s Prairie Classic champion, carried the hammer into the eighth end.
The Alberta squad was down 4-3 going into that final frame. But on the last shot, the rock came in far too light to hit the button, allowing Howard to steal a point and clinch a 5-3 win.
Howard beat McEwen in the last two finals before this one, including the StuSells Toronto Tankard just last weekend in Toronto.
"I feel like we owe them one," McEwen said before the final. "Their ability to hang around is incredible… they find their way into the playoffs, and once there they’re almost impossible to beat."
Both teams have a bright history at this event. Howard won the Prairie Classic for three years running between 2006 and 2008, while McEwen took the championship in 2010 and 2011.