Success turns toughest critics into believers

PAUL FRIESEN

, Last Updated: 9:50 AM ET

BRANDON -- Mike McEwen made believers of a few people here this week, not the least of whom is his mother.

A two-time Manitoba junior champ, McEwen, 27, is seen as one of the "next ones," an up- and-comer to take the place of the Big Three -- Jeff Stoughton, Kerry Burtnyk and Vic Peters -- who've dominated the rock world for so long.

But it's one thing to be touted, another to prove you deserve it. And one of McEwen's tougher critics, it seems, is from his own family.

Yesterday, after he gave Burtnyk all he could handle in the provincial men's semifinal, forcing an extra end before dropping a 7-5 decision, McEwen got a hug from his mom, along with a stamp of approval.

"It's actually amazing to her we're there -- that we're actually that good," McEwen said. "You know how moms can be. They worry, and can be a little pessimistic."

Based on what happened this week, there's plenty of room for optimism.

Showing the mettle of seasoned veterans, McEwen's rink faced elimination six times before yesterday, surviving each one.

"We showed a lot of character, being down on one leg through most of the event, and really grinding out wins until we started to play well," McEwen said. "We're just a first-year team, so I hope we can build on this."

That said, McEwen wasn't thrilled with the way it ended in his old hometown.

"It kind of sucks," he said. "I would have liked to have more opportunities. I didn't expect Kerry to play like that. He caught me off guard. It came down to one or two moments that kind of defined that game."

LOOKING GOOD

One was the eighth end, when McEwen was looking good for a steal, only to allow Burtnyk to take two and a 5-3 lead.

"That was kind of a missed opportunity," he said.

If McEwen was surprised at Burtnyk's conservative strategy, the feeling was mutual.

"They were a little bit more conservative than I thought they might be for the first six or seven ends," Burtnyk said. "But maybe that was their game plan, and they stuck to it. All the credit to them for that."

Burtnyk wouldn't be surprised if McEwen and his young mates -- Matt Wozniak, BJ and Denni Neufeld are all in their twenties -- wind up in a Brier someday.

"Without question -- he was really close this year," Burtnyk said. "If that team stays together, they're going to be a force to be reckoned with."

The approval of a former world champ and a skeptical mother -- not bad.

"There might have been questions," McEwen acknowledged. "Our successes are very recent. This maybe cements that a little bit, to say, 'Hey, those other things aren't flukes.' That we're here to stay."


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