Mike McEwen's Winnipeg foursome was not only the team to beat on the World Curling Tour this year -- they were the team that was almost unbeatable.
But after making the final of nine consecutive World Curling Tour events dating back to January, the McEwen foursome has gone into a slump in recent weeks just as the most important event of all approaches -- the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings at the MTS Centre, Dec. 1-8.
First, the McEwen foursome lost three straight games in Abbotsford, B.C. at the start of the month to find themselves quickly eliminated from the Masters of Curling, a Grand Slam event. And then they failed to qualify for the playoffs again at another Slam event in Medicine Hat, Alta. -- the Canadian Open.
So after a run that saw McEwen win 18 of his first 19 games on tour this fall, the team will limp into the MTS Centre having lost six of their last 10.
"It's been a bit of a wakeup call," McEwen said this week. "We're not panicking or anything like that. But it was kind of nice to get a reminder of what it takes to win and maybe some of the little things that we'd forgotten about or were ignoring. Some things had slipped in our performance, so yeah, it was a good wakeup call."
McEwen will be attempting to follow in the footsteps of Ontario's Mike Harris, who won the 1997 Trials despite having not first won a provincials and remains the only Canadian skip, men's or women's, to have done that.
McEwen has also been thwarted in his attempts to win a Manitoba men's title over the years -- he's lost three finals -- and says the comparison with Harris's team in 1997 is suitable.
"They're actually a pretty good example. I think back in that day, they were a team that had a really good tour season and had done quite well, but they still flew in a little under the radar," said McEwen.
"So yeah, I'd say we wouldn't fall too far from that tree."