Some might have considered his first appearance in the Canada Cup a fluke.
Making it two years in a row, however, will remove any doubts those in the curling world might have had about Mike McEwen.
"We're no fluke," McEwen said last night from Edmonton. "We've just been slowly climbing the list. Nobody's taking us for granted anymore, that's for sure. We've got a really good work ethic, so I think we're here to stay."
McEwen, a Winnipegger who grew up in Brandon, qualified yesterday for his second straight Canada Cup thanks to his semifinal showing at a qualifier in the Alberta capital. He didn't need to make it to the semifinals, however, as he had already made it in based on his eighth-place standing in the CTRS points race.
"It's pretty big getting back to the Canada Cup, for sure," McEwen said. "It gives us another big event to play in, so it's pretty important. Anything that gets us one step closer to making the pre-Trials and competing against the best teams in the world."
The 10-team Canada Cup will be played in Yorkton, Sask., in March. The field also includes Kevin Martin, Glenn Howard, Brad Gushue, Randy Ferbey, Wayne Middaugh, Kerry Burtnyk, Kevin Koe, Bob Ursel and Russ Howard.
PUMPED FOR YORKTON
Burtnyk qualified by virtue of his seventh-place standing on the CTRS points list between Sept. 1 and today.
"It's going to be a really, really good field," McEwen said. "We're pretty pumped to go to Yorkton. I'm sure they'll put on a good event."
McEwen, supported by B.J. Neufeld, Matt Wozniak and Denni Neufeld, beat Burtnyk 8-7 in quarter-final action yesterday morning before bowing out to Martin 7-5 in the semifinals. They earned $5,600 and actually scooped up enough CTRS points to knock fellow Winnipegger Jeff Stoughton out of the Canada Cup field.
McEwen said his team has simply improved its consistency in many areas of the game this season, including "learning how to play against your Glenn Howards and Martins and Burtnyks, because it is definitely a little bit different and you do have to learn how to beat those guys."
They've beaten Koe and they finally toppled Glenn Howard after many attempts at last weekend's Grand Slam event, although they have yet to down Martin in two or three tries.
"We did set some pretty lofty goals for ourselves," McEwen said. "We're definitely gaining ground. I don't think that we've fallen back or stalled. I think we are progressively improving. It's good to see."
At the women's Canada Cup qualifier in Ottawa, Winnipeg's Jennifer Jones lost 8-5 to Quebec's Marie-France Larouche in quarter-final action.
It wasn't a big deal for Jones, who had already qualified for the Canada Cup as the defending national champ. She will be the lone Manitoban in the women's field in Yorkton.