NEEPAWA -- Mike McEwen will face Rob Fowler in the 2 vs. 2 game here at the Safeway Championship Saturday night in what will be a replay of the 2012 Manitoba men’s curling championship final.
And just like in that game, one of the two teams will be heading home very disappointed tonight.
McEwen advanced to tonight with an 8-1 thrashing of Brandon’s Terry McNamee Saturday afternoon in what was McEwen's second victory of today after being bounced to the B-side in a loss to Fowler Friday night.
Fowler, meanwhile, bounced back from a loss to Sean Grassie Saturday morning with a 10-4 win over Scott Ramsay Saturday afternoon to advance to yet another date with McEwen in what is a sudden-death game for both teams.
Fowler beat McEwen in last year's provincial final and again in the opening round of the playoffs Friday night, but McEwen beat Fowler both times the teams met on the cashspiel circuit this year.
The loser tonight will be eliminated, while the winner will advance to Sunday morning’s semifinal against the loser of tonight’s 1 vs. 1 game between Jeff Stoughton and Sean Grassie. The winner of Stoughton-Grassie advances straight to Sunday afternoon’s final.
While McEwen still needs to win three games in a row if he’s going to capture his first Manitoba men’s championship this weekend, he does enjoy one advantage over the other three remaining teams -- his squad is the only healthy team still unaffected by a virulent flu bug that has been decimating the curlers here.
Stoughton lead Mark Nichols and third Jon Mead have come down with the bug during the last 24 hours, as has Fowler second Richard Daneault. The Grassie team has also been affected.
The Stoughton team has a fifth man here, Garth Smith, who filled in for Nichols for the second half of a win over McNamee Saturday morning. But Fowler said his team didn't bring a fifth man this weekend. He said he was confident Daneault -- who has played both games today already -- will be able to answer the bell again tonight.
McEwen said after the win over McNamee this afternoon that his squad had a spirited team meeting Friday night after the loss to Fowler -- and there was what sounds like a very frank exchange of views between the team’s members.
"We probably needed to be fired up a little bit," said McEwen. "We got kind of lackadaisacal in the middle half against Fowler yesterday. We didn’t want to see that happen again...
"We kind of had it out a little bit (during the team meeting). Everybody threw a (verbal) punch here and there. We tried not to take it personally. We got kind of amped up. Our sports (psychologist Cal Botterill) said the same thing. I guess we’re a team that kind of needs a little bit of fire sometimes -- controlled -- but we need it sometimes to play better...
"We probably play better mad, to be honest -- as long as we’re talking. That’s the problem, though -- when we’re not talking and we’re mad, that gets kind of dicey out there. A little bit of fire, as long as we’re talking, that’s something that works for our team."