THEY'VE played just two games apiece, but already the Olympic dreams of Winnipeg's Mike McEwen and Jeff Stoughton are hanging by a thread at the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings at MTS Centre.
McEwen fell to 0-2 with a 7-5 loss Monday afternoon to defending Canadian champion Brad Jacobs, while Stoughton also dropped to 0-2 with a 6-5 loss to defending Olympic gold medallist Kevin Martin. Martin and Jacobs both improved to 2-0.
In a seven-game round-robin format where only the top three teams at week's end make the playoffs, Stoughton and McEwen now both need to win all five of their remaining games to have a realistic chance of making the playoff round that will determine who will be Canada's curling representatives in Sochi.
And that's an impossible outcome, since Stoughton and McEwen face each other Thursday evening. And so put it altogether and two Winnipeg men's teams who had such high hopes for this event on Sunday suddenly find themselves facing sudden death and needing everything to go their way the rest of the week just to stay alive.
"We need to win out -- that's all we can think about right now is winning our last five games," said Stoughton third Jon Mead.
Mead's skip had a more modest goal. "How about one win? That's what we want," said Stoughton. "We'll worry about five later."
Despite the seriousness of his situation, Stoughton was upbeat on Monday about his team's predicament, laughing and joking with the media and vowing to fight on. "I'm not going to go slash my wrists," Stoughton laughed. "It's a game, but it still means so much. But like I said -- there's five games left. If we were 0-5, I'd be a little more disappointed and pissed off and everything else in between."
McEwen agreed his team has dug themselves a deep early hole, but pointed out the task of making the playoffs is doable, particularly in such a competitive field. "With the teams so even and with so much parity, I think 5-2 definitely gets you something good...
"We've won more than five games in a row in our lives, so why not?"
McEwen and Stoughton return to the ice on Tuesday for two games apiece. Stoughton plays 2012 Players Champion John Epping (1-1) in the morning and 2010 Olympic gold medallist John Morris (2-0) on the evening draw, while McEwen plays the same two teams but in reverse order.
Morris improved to 2-0 Monday afternoon with a 6-4 win over 2010 Brier champion Kevin Koe, while Epping fell to 1-1 with a 9-5 loss to 2012 Brier champion Glenn Howard. Koe fell to 0-2 with the loss, while Howard improved to 1-1 with the win.