PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE, MAN. - For the third time in four years, the Mike McEwen rink is the king of the Prairies.
The Winnipeg team defeated Ontario's Glenn Howard 6-2 in six ends on Monday evening in the final of the World Curling Tour's Canad Inns Prairie Classic at the Portage Curling Club and took home the $18,000 top prize and the newly-named Dave Elias Memorial Trophy, going 7-0 on the weekend.
McEwen's team of third B.J. Neufeld, second Matt Wozniak and lead Denni Neufeld also won the event in 2010 and 2011.
"(Canad Inns runs) a great event," said McEwen following the game. "A lot of things they've done to make great ice here, bringing in some experienced people to make the conditions so good and it has brought a whole bunch of amazing teams with it. We've been thriving at this 'spiel under those conditions and it feels pretty good to play well in that field."
Facing a steal of two early in the final, McEwen drew to the four-foot for one in the first end to take the early lead. After blanking the 2nd, Howard was able to hit and stick for a deuce in the third and took a 2-1 lead.
After Howard crashed on a guard with one of his rocks in the fourth, the door opened for McEwen, who drew for two and took the lead back.
Howard once again blanked the fifth, but with the hammer in the sixth, came up light on a draw with his final stone and allowed McEwen to steal three.
"You don't get too many steals on Glenn because he's usually got draw weight in his back pocket, so if he needs to draw the button, he's usually got it made," said McEwen, talking about the game-changing sixth end. "Just one uncharacteristic runback by (Wayne Middaugh) put them in a heap of trouble and Glenn had to go really wide and it was a bit of a guess. We capitalized on the shots we needed to in that end to put them in that situation."
It was also a little bit of payback in a way for the McEwen rink, as they were coming off a loss to Howard in the StuSells Tankard Final in Toronto Oct. 11-14 and a loss in the Players' Championship final back in April, also to Howard's rink.
"It's kind of nice to get a W on the board against him," McEwen cracked.
And he hopes there's more of that to come in the next few months, with the Canadian Olympic Curling Trials beginning Dec. 1 in Winnipeg. Both teams are in the field, and McEwen says this win gives his group confidence.
"Anytime you beat any of the Trials teams, it gives you a bit of a boost and at the same time maybe puts a little bit of a question mark in your opposition," he said. "As many wins as you can against those teams in the Trials, it definitely won't hurt."
Eight of the 32 teams qualified for the playoff round, which began Monday morning. McEwen's squad defeated provincial rival Jeff Stoughton in the quarters and then knocked off Saskatchewan's Brock Virtue in the semis. Howard snuck by the John Morris rink from B.C. in the quarters and then ousted defending Prairie Classic champion Kevin Koe from Alberta in the semis. Other teams knocked out in the quarter-final round were Brad Jacobs and Mark Kean from Ontario.
Local rinks Ryan Hyde from Portage and Geoff Trimble from Gladstone both went 0-3 and were eliminated early. Hyde lost games to Virtue, Jared Kolomaya, and William Lyburn, while Trimble fell to Steve Laycock, Richard Daneault, and Jack McDonald.