December 17, 2017

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Straight rock sinks McEwen

Loses to Gushue, teams tied at 4-2

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld</p><p>Skip Mike McEwen, from Winnipeg, watches an opponent's rock during the Olympic curling trials action, Wednesday in Ottawa. </p>

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Skip Mike McEwen, from Winnipeg, watches an opponent's rock during the Olympic curling trials action, Wednesday in Ottawa.

OTTAWA — Winnipeg skip Mike McEwen was musing here the other day about how there’s a tournament within a tournament at the Roar of the Rings: there’s the regular nine-team round robin, McEwen figured. Then there’s another round robin within the round robin, involving just “the big boys,” to use McEwen’s description.

It was that second, smaller round robin — involving former Olympic and Canadian champions such as Brad Jacobs, Brad Gushue and Kevin Koe — that McEwen figured was most important to win if you’re planning on being around when the playoffs start on Saturday.

Unfortunately for McEwen, it’s not been working out that way.

McEwen lost his second in a row in that tournament within a tournament Wednesday night, going down 8-3 to Gushue a day after Koe handed McEwen his first loss of the week.

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OTTAWA — Winnipeg skip Mike McEwen was musing here the other day about how there’s a tournament within a tournament at the Roar of the Rings: there’s the regular nine-team round robin, McEwen figured. Then there’s another round robin within the round robin, involving just "the big boys," to use McEwen’s description.

It was that second, smaller round robin — involving former Olympic and Canadian champions such as Brad Jacobs, Brad Gushue and Kevin Koe — that McEwen figured was most important to win if you’re planning on being around when the playoffs start on Saturday.

Unfortunately for McEwen, it’s not been working out that way.

McEwen lost his second in a row in that tournament within a tournament Wednesday night, going down 8-3 to Gushue a day after Koe handed McEwen his first loss of the week.

Put it all together and McEwen is 4-2 overall — and 0-2 against two of the biggest boys, with one more ‘big boy’ still in front of him.

That test will come tonight in the person of Jacobs, who is fighting for his playoff life at 2-3.

"That’s a big game for us," said McEwen.

So was the one against Gushue, who improved to 4-2 with the win and moved into a tie for second with McEwen in the standings with the victory.

The loss to Gushue turned on a steal of three in the second end. Facing a cluster of three Gushue counters on the four-foot, McEwen had an exceptionally difficult draw just to cut Gushue down and he came up light.

McEwen said afterward that his team lost that end — and the game — long before it was played, blaming the chain of events that led up to that steal of three on the team’s decision prior to the game to give third B.J. Neufeld what turned out to be a rock that didn’t curl as much as the others.

"We mucked up on some intel. We put a straight rock in B.J.’s hands and we got nailed for it in the second end. That was unfortunate," said McEwen.

"It’s not indicative of how we’re playing. We just screwed up."

The men’s teams are chasing just two playoff spots now because Calgary’s Kevin Koe has already clinched the third one. Koe improved to 6-0 with a 6-4 win over Toronto’s John Epping Wednesday afternoon.

The loss to Gushue came at the end of a two-game day for McEwen, who earlier defeated Saskatoon’s Steven Laycock 10-4.

That loss dropped Laycock — who has Winnipeg’s Matt Dunstone throwing last rocks for him — to 2-4 and eliminated them from playoff contention.

Meanwhile, Winnipeg’s Reid Carruthers stayed alive Wednesday night with a 10-6 victory over Vernon, B.C.’s John Morris in his only game of the day.

The win over Morris improved Carruthers’ record to 3-3, with two games remaining — against Jacobs this morning and Brendan Bottcher (2-3) on the final round-robin draw Friday night.

Carruthers will need victories in both games to keep any hope of the playoffs alive — and he’s not sure if that will be good enough.

"I still don’t know if three (losses) is even alive. So we’re just playing our hearts out. And until I’m told I’m out, we’ll keep giving it our best," said Carruthers.

If McEwen and Gushue win their final two games, three losses would be too many, regardless of what Carruthers does.

In other action Wednesday, 2017 Manitoba women’s champion Michelle Englot notched her first win of this event, dumping Woodstock’s Julie Tippin 9-6 to improve to 1-4.

email: paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @PaulWiecek

Read more by Paul Wiecek.

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