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Sunday, bloody Sunday: Ill-fated day for McEwen

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NEEPAWA -- It was the fourth straight year of Sunday heartbreak for Mike McEwen this weekend at the 2013 Safeway Championship.

McEwen struggled through the first five ends of his semifinal against rival Jeff Stoughton Sunday morning, spotting Stoughton a 4-1 fifth-end lead on a McEwen flash that turned a game-tying deuce into a Stoughton steal, en route to a 5-3 loss that eliminated his squad.

McEwen took full responsibility for the loss. "I did that all by myself the first five ends," he said.

McEwen said his team was fully healthy and he felt mentally strong heading into a game against an opponent that has beaten him on Sunday twice before in the last three years.

"I felt great. I don't know. I can't really explain it. We knew we had to play good today regardless. You can play good and still lose to those guys but I felt great going into the game. I can't explain it," said McEwen, who has still yet to win a provincial title despite years of dominance on the cashspiel circuit.

The McEwen collapse was particularly striking after a Saturday that saw his team dominate in winning three straight games to stay alive.

"I don't know what (happened)," McEwen said. "How do you go from making everything to you can't even hit an open rock?"

The Rock still his home

HE'S going to be wearing a Bison on his back for the first time ever at the Brier in Edmonton next month, but Jeff Stoughton lead Mark Nichols says he will always be a Newfoundlander at heart.

The question now, however, is whether the folks back home in Newfoundland are going see it the same way.

"For me, it doesn't change anything. I'm still from Newfoundland, I love it, that's my home," said Nichols, who yesterday added a Manitoba men's title here in a 7-4 final of the Safeway Championship to the eight Newfoundland titles he previously won as third for Brad Gushue.

"But there's probably a lot of people back East who maybe might say I'm a traitor or something like that."

Nichols moved with his wife to Winnipeg last summer to replace Steve Gould as Stoughton's lead and take another shot at winning the same Trials event he won with Gushue in 2005 en route to Olympic gold in Torino.

But while a Trials run was the primary purpose of the move, the secondary result is that a man from probably the most fiercely proud province in the country is going to find himself in Edmonton playing against a province that named a street after him, as well as his longtime former skip, who also qualified for the Brier Sunday.

"If they want to take away my street, they can," Nichols laughed. "But I'm sure they won't... I moved here to curl and enjoy it and have fun. And I am. I don't regret the decision at all."

Lots of talent at Brier

GUSHUE is far from the only very familiar -- and talented -- name that's going to be curling at next month's Brier. Reigning Canadian and world champion Glenn Howard will represent Ontario, 2010 Olympic gold medallist Kevin Martin will represent Alberta, 2006 Brier champion Jean-Michel Menard will represent Quebec and 2005 Brier finalist Paul Flemming will represent Nova Scotia.

Yukon/NWT's Jamie Koe, New Brunswick's James Grattan, Saskatchewan's Brock Virtue and Northern Ontario's Brad Jacobs will also be in Edmonton.

The Jacobs foursome has a Manitoba connection in Ryan Fry, who has also previously represented both Manitoba and Newfoundland at the Brier.

Brent Pierce was playing Andrew Bilesky in the B.C. final Sunday night. The P.E.I. playdowns were delayed until at least Tuesday by the weekend storm in Atlantic Canada.

Carruthers wants more

JEFF Stoughton second Reid Carruthers struggled mightily at times on the final weekend, but made a couple of key shots in the first half of Sunday's win over Sean Grassie in the final.

Carruthers said the combination of his struggles at times and a flu that ran through the team on the final weekend really tested them as a unit.

"The start of the week I thought I played really well, but then I took a couple games off, that's for sure," said Carruthers. "But the guys really battled. And it was a struggle for them today too, because they weren't feeling very well. But our performance here today was pretty solid. I'm really excited."

Carruthers won a Brier and world championship in his first year with Stoughton in 2011 and said it only whetted his appetite for more.

"It's really driven me to want to get back there. Obviously the team has really jelled. This is the best, as far as cash on paper, cashspiel season we've had so far. Winning this has just capped it off. We're really excited."

Carruthers was also asked for his reaction to Stoughton's incredibly thin and difficult double-takeout for a deuce in the ninth end Sunday afternoon that effectively won his team the title.

"He never really... surprises me. I kind of expect him to make those, just because he always does."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 11, 2013 C4

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