THE Mike McEwen team from the Assiniboine Memorial Curling Club defended their title and earned the top prize of $18,000 at the Canad Inns Prairie Classic on Monday in Portage la Prairie.
The McEwen team of third B.J. Neufeld, second Matt Wozniak and lead Denni Neufeld defeated the Kevin Koe team from Edmonton 5-3 in the championship final at the Portage Curling Club.
McEwen scored two in the fifth to lead 4-1 before Koe put up back-to-back singles in the sixth and seventh ends to make it close. McEwen sealed the win with a single in the eighth end.
The Koe team earned $10,000 as a finalist in the bonspiel, which carried a prize purse of $58,000.
"It's a great event where we get to play against some of our peers, some good Manitoba teams, and some good out-of-province teams. It feels pretty good at the end of the day to win an event like that," McEwen said in a telephone interview. "We struggled a bit early on but the last three games were probably the best games we've played all year (this season so far)."
At the Manitoba Lotteries Women's Curling Classic at the Fort Rouge Curling Club, Renee Sonnenberg and her team from Grande Prairie, Alta., defeated the Heather Nedohin team from Edmonton 8-7 in the championship final.
It was the first Capital One Grand Slam of Curling title for the Sonnenberg team of third Lawnie MacDonald, second Kristie Moore and lead Rona Pasika, which earned $15,000 as the winner. The Nedohin team of third Beth Iskiw, second Jessica Mair and lead Laine Peters received $10,000.
Sonnenberg led 5-0 after three ends and Nedohin put up three in the seventh end to tie the game at 7-7. Sonnenberg scored a last-rock single in the eighth end for the win.
In the men's semifinals, McEwen scored three in the seventh end to beat Sean Grassie 6-2. Koe scored a last-rock single to beat Steve Laycock of Saskatchewan 6-5 in the other semifinal.
The Grassie and Laycock teams each earned $6,000 as semifinalists.
McEwen came into the event sitting second on the World Curling Tour's money list behind Kevin Martin of Edmonton.
"We were talking after and this is our fifth year as a team. We've had some big mountains to climb but we just realized that we're now the No. 1 ranked team in the world," McEwen said, noting the Portage win put the team at the top of the World Curling Tour money list, the Order of Merit list and the Canadian Team Ranking System. "We've come a long way and, even though we still haven't been able to get that Manitoba championship, we're pretty happy with the direction the team is going."
At Fort Rouge in the women's semifinals Monday afternoon, hometown favourite Cathy Overton-Clapham and her Fort Rouge team of third Jenna Loder, second Ashley Howard and lead Breanne Meakin lost 5-4 in an extra end to Sonnenberg. The Overton-Clapham team earlier this month won the first women's Grand Slam event of the season, capturing the Curlers Corner Autumn Gold Curling Classic in Calgary.
The Cheryl Bernard team from Calgary, 2010 Olympic silver medallists, lost 6-2 in the other semifinal to Nedohin. Overton-Clapham and Bernard each received $6,000 as semifinalists.
Jennifer Jones' team from St. Vital lost in the quarter-final round, dropping a 4-3 decision to Bernard. The other teams who lost in the quarter-finals included Darcy Robertson of Fort Rouge, Stefanie Lawton of Saskatchewan and Kelly Scott of B.C. The teams bowing out after the quarter-finals each won $3,700.