PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE -- The two-time defending champion of the Canad Inns Prairie Classic started off right on Friday at the Portage Curling Club.
Winnipeg's Mike McEwen and his team of third BJ Neufeld, second Matt Wozniak and lead Denni Neufeld defeated the Jared Kolomaya team from Stonewall 5-3 in the second draw.
Team McEwen is one of 32 teams in the $58,000 World Curling Tour event. It's a big weekend for the Roarin' Game in Manitoba, as meanwhile in Winnipeg there are 32 women's teams competing in the WCT's $60,000 Manitoba Lotteries Curling Classic at Fort Rouge Curling Club.
"We've been playing in this event for the last five years, we're comfortable being here and proud to have won it the past two, but it doesn't really change our approach," said Neufeld, following Team McEwen's win. "We need to make sure that in the bonspiels we're in that we qualify (for playoff round) and put ourselves in a position to earn some points and maybe win the odd 'spiel here and there."
WCT results this season will help teams accumulate points towards earning a spot in the 2013 Canadian Olympic Curling Trials in December in Winnipeg. Team McEwen has been provincial finalists the past three years and winners of three Grand Slam titles in the past two, including last season's BDO Canadian Open.
"We had such a good year last season, we don't want to settle for going down. We want to continue improving," McEwen said. "This (Portage event) feels like the meat of the season. It feels like now it's really starting. We're getting into some really great fields and some top events."
The team has played in two other WCT events so far this season -- the Point Optical Curling Classic at Saskatoon in September, where they didn't qualify for the playoff round, and in October at the StuSells Toronto Tankard, where they lost in the quarter-finals.
The Canad Inns Prairie Classic will continue today and Sunday with the playoff round on Monday.
"I don't think I've ever seen so many teams in the (world) top 15 here, so it kind of resonates like a (Grand) Slam field," McEwen said. "The ice is really good so it's going to be a good test out here this weekend."
Trevor Found, president of the Portage Curling Club, agrees there is a top-notch field.
"We're very happy with the field this year. This is the best we've had in 10 years," he said "There's a $58,000 purse with $18,000 for first place, so it's one of the top events."
At the women's Manitoba Lotteries Curling Classic, defending champion Renee Sonnenberg of Grande Prairie, Alta. won her first A-side game 5-2 over Winnipeg's Janet Harvey. Other A-side winners Friday included Jennifer Jones, Amber Holland, Cheryl Bernard, Chelsea Carey, Sherry Middaugh, Shannon Kleibrink, Marie-France Larouche, Stefanie Lawton, Heather Nedohin, Rachel Homan, Margaretha Sigfidsson, Valerie Sweeting, Laura Crocker, Anette Norberg and Cathy Overton-Clapham.
Women's action at the Fort Rouge continues today and Sunday with the playoff round on Monday.
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