Inspiration at home

JIM BENDER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:29 AM ET

If Mike McEwen is jealous of the success of his significant other, he is not showing it.

"Certainly, I know it's going to be tough to be the best curler in our household," the Assiniboine Memorial skip said Thursday.

That other curler in the household is Dawn Askin, who has played lead for St. Vital's Jennifer Jones while she won her last three consecutive Canadian women's crowns, as well as the 2008 world title.

"I guess that does give me a little bit of motivation," conceded McEwen, who is seeking his first Manitoba men's title at the Safeway Championship in Steinbach this week. "Certainly, it's given me a lot of respect for what that team does and I think that's rubbed off."

Not that McEwen is any slouch himself. As the No. 2 seed in the Automobile City, McEwen defeated Pembina's David Kraichy 7-2 at the TG Smith Centre to advance to Friday morning's qualifying game against Deloraine's Murray Warren (8:30 a.m.).

The other thing that has rubbed off is the way Mc-Ewen's squad prepares. For the first time, all four are working with a personal trainer and he believes they throw more practice rocks than any other team in Manitoba.

"We also admire their mindset and how tough they are, even when they are not winning," said McEwen, supported by third B.J. Neufeld, second Matt Wozniak and Denni Neufeld (B.J.'s brother). "We've worked on getting tougher mentally when we get down.

"We've addressed a number of issues ... We've left no stone unturned."

So far, it is paying off.

"This year, we came out of the gate pretty hot and the guys are shooting high numbers," said McEwen. "We were pretty cool coming out of the gate in Selkirk last year. If we can maintain this, we'll be in a better frame of mind."

There will be some intriguing match-ups in the other qualifiers Friday morning. First, West St. Paul's Reid Carruthers will face Beausejour's Jason Gunnlaugson in a bit of a grudge match, as they are former teammates. Carruthers, who won the Manitoba Curling Tour championship, was also seeded slightly higher (No. 4) than Gunnlaugson (No. 5), who made people sit up and take notice at the Canadian Curling Pre-trials.

In another qualifier of note, Stony Mountain's Randy Dutiaume will challenge Charleswood's defending champion Jeff Stoughton. Dutiaume, a former Manitoba champ, has served as Stoughton's fifth at the last two Briers and at the 2009 Canadian Curling Trials. Dutiaume nipped West Kildonan's Brendan Taylor 6-5 to advance.

In a mild upset, Dauphin's unseeded Peter Prokopo-wich surprised West Kildonan's Dave Elias (No. 11) 9-7 in an extra end and will play Assiniboine Memorial's two-time Brier champion Kerry Burtnyk Friday morning.

In other games of note, Assiniboine Memorials' David Bohn bounced former Canadian Mixed champ Sean Grassie of Deer Lodge 7-2 and West Kildonan's Doug Riach eliminated Petersfield's Dave Boehmer 7-5.

The other four qualifying games will be played Friday at 4 p.m. with the playoff round starting at 7:45 p.m.


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