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This article was published 8/12/2017 (1020 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA — I’ve got to admit, I had my doubts about Mike McEwen Thursday night at the Roar of the Rings.
It wasn’t only because he had just lost for the third time in four games.
What seemed even more alarming at the time than what McEwen was doing on the ice was what he told me off of it when we talked about how his Olympic dream — and decades of toil in the game — was going to come down to one final round-robin game Friday morning against Edmonton’s Brendan Bottcher.
"I don’t hold this event on the pedestal some people hold it on," McEwen told me with a straight face. "It’s not going to define me. There’s so many amazing teams who will never, ever go to the Olympics. And we might be one of them.
"So I’m not going to lose sleep over that. Whatever happens, happens and I’m going to enjoy it. I will still wake up the next morning and give my daughter a hug and try to win a provincial (title), if that’s what it comes down to.
"But I’m just really trying not to put this event so high that it just consumes you and drains you if you cannot win it."
That’s all good common sense, of course. But it also all sounded to me like a guy who was getting ready to lose and was trying to convince himself, more than me, that he was OK with that.
Through seven ends against Bottcher Friday, it sure looked like that was exactly what was going to happen. Trailing 4-2 and unable to generate anything in the way of offence, all the available evidence suggested McEwen was going to go out with a whimper — and a loss to Bottcher that would have eliminated his team from playoff contention.
Then McEwen third B.J. Neufeld stepped up with a brilliant freeze in the eighth end that changed the course of the game and, for all we know right now, maybe even Canadian curling history.
By the time the dust settled on that eighth end, McEwen had himself a go-ahead three-ender. Two ends later, it was Bottcher’s playoff hopes that had come to an unceremonious end and McEwen who had lived to fight another day with a 6-4 victory that gave his team a 5-3 round-robin record and, by day’s end, third place.
McEwen will face second-place Brad Gushue (6-2) in tonight’s semifinal (6 p.m. CT, TSN), with the winner advancing to face Kevin Koe (7-1) in Sunday evening’s final.
Suddenly a guy who was maintaining just a few days ago that none of this was really all that important to him finds himself just two wins from an invitation to play for Canada at a little bonspiel called the 2018 Winter Olympics.
On further review, McEwen admitted Friday that, well, yeah actually, he does really want this.
"Maybe I was too even keel," McEwen said with a sheepish grin.
"If you get too mellow that wouldn’t be too good, either. Maybe I was getting too loose."
McEwen had to wait until Friday night before he knew who he’d be playing — and in what game — today.
Fellow Winnipegger Reid Carruthers was also still alive at 4-3 heading into his game against Bottcher Friday night and could have forced a tiebreaker game with McEwen this morning if he’d won.
But Carruthers fell behind 2-0 to Bottcher in the second end, rolling out and jamming a tapback with the last rock of the end to yield a steal of two that had him chasing the scoreboard the rest of the night.
Carruthers forced an extra end and made Bottcher throw his last rock, but it was too little too late and an 8-7 loss eliminated Carruthers and will leave him to wonder the next four years about an opportunity that slipped away alongside that rock in the second end.
Carruthers, as always, was stoic and classy in the face of a very difficult defeat.
"We worked extremely hard this year and the off-season leading up to this, but so have all the other teams," he said. "I guess I will need some time to digest it, but I can’t say it wasn’t worth it because I have no regrets."
And McEwen? Well, two of his three losses this week — perhaps ominously — came against the two other teams still alive, Gushue and Koe.
McEwen got thumped 8-3 by Gushue Wednesday night in what he described as his worst effort of the week — he was out-curled 89 per cent to 74 per cent at the skip position — and he will have to be markedly better if he’s going to advance to Sunday and become the first Manitoba men’s skip to play in a Trials final since Jeff Stoughton lost the 2005 final to Gushue.
How much does McEwen want this? We’re about to find out.
Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.
Updated on Saturday, December 9, 2017 at 7:37 AM CST: Edited
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