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This article was published 9/3/2018 (525 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
REGINA — Mike McEwen beat Matt Dunstone and Reid Carruthers on Friday — at the men’s national curling championship, not the provincials.
Snuffing out the Brier hopes of a couple of guys from back home was definitely Plan A. In fact, pressured to perform, McEwen and his Winnipeg teammates delivered some of their best throws of the week in a pair of must-win contests.
Trouble was, their fate also rested in someone else’s hands at Brandt Place.
And that someone, Brendan Bottcher of Alberta, took care of his own business, defeating Brad Jacobs of Northern Ontario to secure the fourth and final spot in the Page playoffs — eliminating McEwen (7-4).
Bottcher rebounded nicely from a 9-7 afternoon defeat to Ontario to post an impressive 9-3 win over Jacobs in the night draw and finished with an 8-3 record.
The Wild Card crew’s wild ride here is done. But McEwen said he’ll remember its final day as one of the its most impressive efforts.
"We showed the team we are. So, the bounce-back was good," said the Fort Rouge skip, whose foursome qualified as the 16th team on the eve of the event. "We were resilient and probably played our best curling the last two games."
McEwen knocked off Steve Laycock of Saskatchewan — with Dunstone throwing fourth stones — by a 6-4 count and then dumped his buddy Carruthers 8-3.
But the squad really did itself in Thursday, handing Ontario a last-end victory because of a heavy draw by McEwen and then spotting Northern Ontario a score of six in the first end in the late draw.
"We had a phenomenal game against Team Ontario, the one that should have, could have been a ‘W’. It was nice to see that (ability to rebound) from us," he said.
"I’m sure none of the teams want to see us in a tie-breaker. Nobody wants to play us. I know (in) the reversal I wouldn’t want to see a (Brad) Gushue, a (John) Epping or a Jacobs squeak in."
Gushue’s Team Canada (10-1) and Epping’s Ontario team (9-2) face each other in the 1 vs. 2 game today at 7 p.m. Gushue posted a 5-4 extra-end victory over the Toronto team in the evening.
Bottcher and Jacobs, also 8-3, meet in the 3 vs. 4 game today at 2 p.m.
Saskatchewan finished 6-5, while Carruthers and Nova Scotia’s Jamie Murphy posted 5-6 records.
McEwen was asked if he’ll be haunted by what transpired here this week.
"It’s down the list... doesn’t even compare to December. It’ll be a pretty quick afterthought," he said, referring to a devastating loss to Calgary’s Kevin Koe with a trip to the Olympics on the line.
By defeating Jacobs, Bottcher escaped a morning tie-breaker with McEwen, ranked fifth in the world.
His focus, he maintained, was solely on the task at hand.
"That was pretty big. It’s always a lot better when you can just focus on your game. You don’t have to be watching over at the sheets beside you trying to figure out (things)," Bottcher said. "That game was over early so I knew we had to take care of business."
The Brier semifinal is Sunday at 11 a.m., while the gold-medal game is at 6 p.m.
The winning team will represent Canada at the world men’s championship, March 31 to April 8 in Las Vegas, and also earns the right to play under the bright lights of Brandon as Team Canada at the 2019 Brier.
The last time McEwen and Carruthers shared a house, McEwen had just been given the green light to curl again in the Viterra men’s championship after suffering a tough bout of chicken pox in a Winkler hospital bed.
He had missed six games while B.J. Neufeld skipped and Matt Wozniak and Denni Neufeld tossed three rocks each. But he returned for the Sunday final, eventually won 6-5 by Carruthers on a fine 10th-end, last-rock hit and stick by the skipper.
It meant a return trip to the national championship for Carruthers, third Braeden Moskowy, second Derek Samagalski and lead Colin Hodgson. They participated at the 2015 Brier in Calgary but put up a shoddy 4-7 record to miss the playoffs.
Carruthers admitted falling short a second time was painful.
"Gut-wrenching, this is not how I had it drawn up in my head, that’s for sure," said the West St. Paul skip, who won a world championship playing front end for Jeff Stoughton in this very rink seven years ago but couldn’t get that magic back.
Team Manitoba began the week winning five of six but dropped its last five in a row.
Carruthers said they struggled to get a handle on the ice this week.
"I don’t like to make excuses but we’ve trained all year to throw lots of rotation and see the ice curl. The ice has been great but it’s been straight and certain teams play well when the ice is straighter, and we’re not one of them," he said. "That’s on us to learn a different release when we come and the ice is a certain way.
"It’s maybe our own fault for not preparing properly."
Stoughton’s Brier victory that year in London, Ont., was Manitoba’s most recent national men’s crown. The seven-year skid without a Brier crown pales in comparison to the Saskatchewan famine.
Its excruciating streak of Brier futility officially hit 38 years. Rick Folk won the province’s last national title in 1980 in Calgary, defeating Al Hackner of Northern Ontario.
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).
Updated on Friday, March 9, 2018 at 10:38 PM CST: Full write through
11:19 PM: FInal version, adds photos