February 23, 2019

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Team Carruthers rocked at Viterra

<p>Mike McEwen, left, and Reid Carruthers react to giving up four points in their loss to Terry McNamee in their A-side game at the Viterra Championship in Virden on Thursday. The defeat has forced the the No. 1 seed to traverse the B side to get to the playoffs.</p>

THOMAS FRIESEN / THE BRANDON SUN

Mike McEwen, left, and Reid Carruthers react to giving up four points in their loss to Terry McNamee in their A-side game at the Viterra Championship in Virden on Thursday. The defeat has forced the the No. 1 seed to traverse the B side to get to the playoffs.

VIRDEN — Even the sturdiest of partnerships finds its mettle tested, but Reid Carruthers’ band of curling brothers is on a truly slippery slope here in Manitoba oil country.

The defending provincial men’s championship team suffered a shocking loss Thursday in just its second test of the 2019 Viterra and is forced to traverse the B side to get to the playoffs.

Carruthers, the No. 1 seed, struggled mightily in a 9-5 defeat to Brandon’s Terry McNamee in the afternoon draw. With Mike McEwen skipping, Carruthers at third, Derek Samagalski at second and Colin Hodgson at lead, the crew simply couldn’t get a handle on the Tundra Oil & Gas Place arena ice and was guilty of far too many misses at inopportune times.

The foursome regrouped hours later, posting a 10-1 triumph over Jeff Stewart of Gladstone on the 7:45 p.m. draw, but still has no wiggle room with a couple of victories still required today to crack the “Round of 8.”

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VIRDEN — Even the sturdiest of partnerships finds its mettle tested, but Reid Carruthers’ band of curling brothers is on a truly slippery slope here in Manitoba oil country.

The defending provincial men’s championship team suffered a shocking loss Thursday in just its second test of the 2019 Viterra and is forced to traverse the B side to get to the playoffs.

Carruthers, the No. 1 seed, struggled mightily in a 9-5 defeat to Brandon’s Terry McNamee in the afternoon draw. With Mike McEwen skipping, Carruthers at third, Derek Samagalski at second and Colin Hodgson at lead, the crew simply couldn’t get a handle on the Tundra Oil & Gas Place arena ice and was guilty of far too many misses at inopportune times.

The foursome regrouped hours later, posting a 10-1 triumph over Jeff Stewart of Gladstone on the 7:45 p.m. draw, but still has no wiggle room with a couple of victories still required today to crack the "Round of 8."

'We’re either gonna play well and do well or we’re gonna play badly and not go far. There’s no reason why we can’t play well when we need to. This is one of those times' – Team Carruthers skip Mike McEwen

Carruthers is on the 12:15 p.m. draw today against Ty Dilello of the Fort Rouge curling club.

"Let’s see what we’re made of. We’re gonna see that," McEwen said. "I’m not too worried about it, to be honest. We’re either gonna play well and do well or we’re gonna play badly and not go far. There’s no reason why we can’t play well when we need to. This is one of those times."

McNamee’s crew of third Brendan Taylor, second Georgie Hargreaves and lead Travis Gouldie were rock solid, posting a huge four in the third end to jump in front 5-1. Down 7-4 after the seventh, McEwen tried a tough angle "in-off" across house and had to settle for only a single to trail by two after eight. McNamee, the event’s 16th seed, put a cap on the upset with a ninth-end deuce.

"They played really well. They put some pressure on us by getting off to a good start," Carruthers said. "They forced us (to a single in the second end), then it was a disaster end and a bit of a comeback end, but overall, I felt like we were a bit inconsistent with our throws and our releases."

McNamee, a five-time Manitoba mixed champion, moves into an A-side qualifying game this morning at 8:30 a.m. and will play Corey Chambers of Lorette. In other qualifying games this morning, No. 2 seed Jason Gunnlaugson of Morris faces Ryan Thomson of Morden, third-seed Braden Calvert of Assiniboine Memorial meets sixth seed William Lyburn of the Granite, and No. 4 seed Tanner Lott of Winnipeg Beach collides with fifth seed Dennis Bohn of Assiniboine Memorial.

Four B qualifiers will emerge from today’s 4 p.m. draw. The Viterra playoffs begin tonight, with the field whittled to four by Saturday evening. The semifinal (8:30 a.m.) and final (2:30 p.m.) are slated for Sunday, and both will be televised (Sportsnet). Sunday’s survivors earn buffalo crests and entry to the Brandon Brier, March 2-10.

Jason Gunnlaugson watches his rock against Graham Freeman in their A-side game on Thursday afternoon.

THOMAS FRIESEN / THE BRANDON SUN

Jason Gunnlaugson watches his rock against Graham Freeman in their A-side game on Thursday afternoon.

Since 2006, just five skips — Jeff Stoughton (2006-07, 2009-11, 2013-14), Kerry Burtnyk (2008), Rob Fowler (2012), Carruthers (2015, ’18) and McEwen (2016-17) — have represented Manitoba at the country’s favourite rockfest. Calvert wants to add his name to that starry list.

Demonstrating remarkable maturity in 2015, the two-time defending Canadian junior winner did some damage in his first championship in Brandon before bowing out to Stoughton on the Saturday night. But Calvert earned just one victory in the 2017 Viterra in Portage la Prairie, returned in ’18 and was thumped twice in a row to hit the highway early.

Back again, the 23-year-old skip figures last year’s quick crash-and-burn in Winkler was a blessing in disguise.

"It fuels you, for sure," said Calvert, who is 2-0 after two days in Virden. "All of that motivates you to get better and not take these things lightly. They’re not easy to get in, and when you get in them, you want to play well."

Calvert and his longtime third, Kyle Kurz, formed an alliance with a new front end, Ian McMillan and Rob Gordon, last fall, and currently sit 17th on the World Curling Tour’s ranking list. The revamped quartet committed to a heavy competitive schedule, which included three Grand Slams.

Despite missing the playoffs in all three — the Tour Challenge in Thunder Bay, Ont., the National in Conception Bay, N.L., and the Canadian Open in North Battleford, Sask. — Calvert said knocking heads with the some of the globe’s greats earned the team immeasurable experience and insight into the way they operate.

"It’s definitely an advantage for us, having three Slams under our belt and having a pretty good feel out there," Calvert said. "You play the best teams in the world there and eventually, you have to figure out how to beat them. We’re starting to have a decent idea of what we need to do out there to do that."

While some top curlers step away from 9-to-5 jobs during the hectic competitive season, Calvert still retains a full-time job as an agronomist with Heritage Co-op in Brandon and helps out with the family cattle operation near Carberry.

Admittedly, he’s lucky to have a couple of understanding bosses.

"Heritage Co-op is unbelievable with me to give me more time off than I should be taking," he said. "The support from my family and dad on the farm, doing all those chores and work when I’m not there, is huge as well."

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
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).

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History

Updated on Thursday, February 7, 2019 at 11:39 PM CST: Adds photo

11:47 PM: Adds pullquote

11:51 PM: Photo caption edits.

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