A day that started with such high hopes for the locals ended in disappointment at the BDO Classic Canadian Open at MTS Centre Saturday night as all three Manitoba teams were eliminated from the playoffs.
Winnipeg’s Kerry Burtnyk, Jeff Stoughton and Mike McEwen will all be spectators for today’s final (1 p.m., CBC) when a couple of familiar teams from elsewhere — Alberta’s Kevin Martin and Ontario’s Glenn Howard — do battle.
Howard and Martin also competed in the final of the Brier at MTS Centre last year and together have utterly dominated the Grand Slam series of curling events. Including this event, either Martin or Howard has now won 10 of the last 11 Slam events.
Martin advanced to today’s final with a 7-2 shellacking of McEwen in Saturday night’s semifinals. The game was effectively over in the third end when McEwen sailed a tap-back attempt with the last rock of the end and gave the defending world champion a crushing steal of five and what was at that point a 6-0 lead.
"I just jumped it up a bit, it got caught in a flat spot and I didn’t give the guys a chance," McEwen said afterward.
"It’s deflating. Compared to the shots the guys and myself were making all week, I’d make that shot 10 out of 10 times usually."
Stoughton also went out with a whimper in Saturday night’s semifinals — and in remarkably similar fashion to McEwen. Facing three Howard counters and needing a bite of the four-foot with the last rock of the first end, Stoughton sailed his effort into the back 12-foot, giving Howard what proved to be a decisive steal of three.
"It was just a bonehead draw," said Stoughton. "You make that shot 99 out of 105 times."
Burtnyk saw his hopes dashed earlier in the day, falling in the quarterfinals 6-4 to Howard.
The semifinal finish for McEwen was the best-ever performance for the 28-year-old former Manitoba junior champion at a major curling event. And it was a major coup for a team — B.J. Neufeld, Matt Wozniak and Denni Neufeld round out the squad — that was the youngest in an 18-team field, with an average age of 25.5 years.
But McEwen also knows that until he actually wins one of these major curling events, he will continue to be regarded as a cut below the two powerhouses of Manitoba men’s curling — Burtnyk and Stoughton.
"I’d have liked to have made more shots and put on a better show," said McEwen. "We haven’t been in the limelight like that too many times."
With his victory over McEwen, Martin now has a chance to cement his reputation as the toughest team to beat in Winnipeg. Martin won the last Canadian Open event at MTS Centre and also won last year’s Brier at the same venue.
So what is it about Manitoba that makes an Albertan so at home? "I’ve got to know a lot of the Winnipeg people over the years and I don’t know, it’s just a very comfortable place for me to come to," Martin said. Howard and Martin have faced off just once this season and Howard was the winner, defeating Martin in the final of a major event in Brooks, Alta., when Martin missed what he terms an "easy double" with the last rock of the game, handing Howard the game-winning steal.