Five points in two ends gave Mike McEwen lead Brad Jacobs couldn't recover from
Mike McEwen poses with the Canada Cup in Camrose Sunday. (Michael Burns, CCA)
In keeping with the jail break theme …
Mike McEwen continued his season of overachievement in an anticlimactic men’s final of the Canada Cup of Curling.
Little Big Horn had more drama than this final.
Playing the role of General Custer, 2014 Olympic gold medallist Brad Jacobs gave up five points — including a steal of three — in the first two ends, allowing MacEwen a comfortable 8-3 win.
That made what could have been a great battle between Canada’s two top-ranked teams into a foregone conclusion.
McEwen has now been in seven straight finals, emerging as a winner six times.
He’s so far ahead in both money winnings and CTRS points that it’s hard to deny his status as this season’s dominant Canadian team.
“Maybe we should take the rest of the year off and see where we end up in the rankings,” joked McEwen.
In an off-season when many rinks made changes for a new Olympic cycle, McEwen’s Winnipeg Fort Rouge foursome is the same as it’s been since the start of the 2007 season. Brothers Denni (lead) and B.J. (third) Neufeld come from strong curling pedigree and second Matt Wozniak has been a steady performer.
“I think that’s part of it,” said McEwen. “We made a lot of changes in how we approach the game. Because we had that really strong (on-ice) base, it’s been an explosion of wins in the last few months.
“It’s beyond our expectations, for sure. We knew we could be the best team in the world. We knew we had to chase after, for example, what Brad Jacobs was doing. We had to get to a new level to keep up with them.”
Off-ice changes with behind-the-scenes people and the different message they presented has apparently resulted in the team’s early-season dominance.
“It’s amazing to get that much validation this quickly,” said McEwen. “We’re headed in the right direction and we’re doing the right things behind the scenes. The musical chairs happened there. We were a little lost. We had gotten stale.”
Although the team has been relatively unknown to casual curling fans, those who have paid attention are keenly aware they’ve been a perennial Top-10 Tour team.
The biggest knock against the team has been their inability to get into the Brier despite consistent strong performances on the World Curling Tour.
It didn’t hurt McEwen’s cause when B.J. Neufeld shot 100% in Sunday’s final.
“That’s the goal every time — to try and make every shot,” said Neufeld. “I felt good out there and the numbers showed that.”
Jacobs was understandably disappointed with the way the evening turned out.
“We came out sloppy,” said Jacobs. “They got the deuce early and put a lot of pressure on us in the second end. I had a tough one and gave up one. That’s never really good. They got off to a 5-0 lead and it was game over at that point.”
Although Jacobs said he’s lost games like this before, it became more excruciating since the teams had to play a mandatory eight ends.
“We would have loved to leave after five,” said Jacobs. “Our spirits, we could have walked off after two. You have to stay out there so long. We have had games like that before and it’s no fun whatsoever. It’s frustrating and really disappointing.
“We did everything necessary to prepare for this game. We struggled with the ice, we struggled with a few tricky spots and it cost us on the scoreboard.”