Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen has been on quite the tear this season and looks to continue his momentum at the Canadian Open running Dec. 9-14 in Yorkton, Sask.
McEwen has won six titles through seven events and is coming off of capturing both the National and the Canada Cup championships and sits at the top of the World Curling Tour’s order of merit list.
The wild card for the third stop on the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling series sees a triple knockout format in use for the Canadian Open rather than a round robin. All teams begins in the A pool with the winners moving on while the losing teams drop to the B pool for another shot at qualifying. Teams that fall in the B pool move into the C group but must win all of their remaining games to advance. Teams that lose in the C pool are eliminated as they’ve incurred three losses (hence a triple knockout).
More on the Canadian Open:
No worries for McEwen though as the team feels at ease with the triple knockout.
“That’s a pretty comfortable format,” McEwen said after winning the National. “We play a lot of our tour events with triple knockout. The meaning is intensified every game. There’s no ‘already qualified and got one more round robin game’ so I like that atmosphere of it.”
“We’re playing really well right now and all year so we’re feeling pretty confident going into it,” lead Denni Neufeld added. “It should be a good event.”
Looking to cool down the red-hot McEwen team is Saskatoon’s Steve Laycock. The Yorkton-born skip aims to capture his first career Grand Slam title in his hometown.
“You couldn’t script it any better than that,” Laycock said. “To finally win your first Grand Slam in your hometown, I would love to see that happen.”
Let’s break down the 16 men’s teams that will be competing in the Canadian Open.
Lineup: Brendan Bottcher, Tom Appelman, Bradley Thiessen and Karrick Martin
WCT Order of Merit ranking: 20th
Bottcher, the 2012 world junior champion, had a breakthrough at the National finishing the round robin with a 4-1 record and reaching the semifinals for a career-best finish at a Grand Slam event. Team Bottcher kicked off the season winning the HDF Insurance Shoot-Out in September. Also of note: Martin is the son of 18-time Grand Slam champion Kevin Martin.
Lineup: Reid Carruthers, Braeden Moskowy, Derek Samagalski and Colin Hodgson
WCT Order of Merit ranking: 14th
Carruthers also shined at the National posting an unblemished 5-0 record in the round robin but fell to Olympic champions Team Jacobs in the quarterfinals. Still, it was an impressive tournament for the all-new rink, especially with Moskowy missing the team’s first two games and Grand Slam MC Pete Steski filling in.
Lineup: Adam Casey, Josh Barry, Anson Carmody and Robbie Doherty
WCT Order of Merit ranking: 18th
Casey & co. became the first P.E.I. team to play in a Grand Slam event when they competed in the National. During the round robin they stunned Team Jacobs in their hometown with a 5-4 victory. One of the more active teams on tour, Casey has reached the final at three events this season: the AMJ Campbell Shorty Jenkins Classic, the Dave Jones Molson Mayflower Cashspiel and the CookstownCash presented by Comco Canada Inc.
Lineup: Jim Cotter, Ryan Kuhn, Tyrel Griffith and Rick Sawatsky
Hometown: Kelowna/Vernon, B.C.
WCT order of merit ranking: 16th
Cotter reached the finals at both the Canadian Olympic Curling Trials and the Tim Hortons Brier last season with John Morris skipping the team while throwing third stones. Cotter is back in charge this year with Kuhn replacing Morris at third.
Lineup: Niklas Edin, Oskar Eriksson, Kristian Lindström and Christoffer Sundgren
Hometown: Karlstad, Sweden
WCT order of merit ranking: 7th
Edin parted ways with his team that won the world championship in 2013 and earned the bronze medal at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, but have no fear, his new squad won the European championship last month. Eriksson (who previously served as Edin’s alternate), Lindström and Sundgren captured silver at the world championship last season.
Lineup: John Epping, Travis Fanset, Patrick Janssen and Tim March
WCT Order of Merit ranking: 9th
Epping is a two-time Grand Slam champion, capturing the 2008 National and 2012 Players’ Championship. The rink won the Gord Carroll Classic title and followed that up by reaching the semifinals of the Masters last month.
Lineup: Brad Gushue, Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker
Hometown: St. John’s, N.L.
WCT Order of Merit ranking: 3rd
The team reached the finals at both the Canadian Open and National last season and broke through to win the Masters to start the Grand Slam series. Nichols rejoined the team this year reuniting with 2006 Olympic gold medal-winning teammate Gushue. The team will look to bounce back after missing the playoffs at the National.
Lineup: Glenn Howard, Richard Hart, Jon Mead and Craig Savill
Hometown: Penetanguishene, Ont.
WCT Order of Merit ranking: 5th
Howard and Savill are two-time Canadian Open champions. Hart came out of retirement to rejoin the team this season while Mead moved over from Team Stoughton. Team Howard is starting to heat up after posting a 5-0 record in the round robin of the National (although they fell to Team McCormick in a quarterfinal upset) and reaching the semifinals at the Canada Cup.
Lineup: Brad Jacobs, Ryan Fry, E.J. Harnden and Ryan Harnden
Hometown: Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
WCT Order of Merit ranking: 2nd
The Sochi Olympic gold medallists are knocking on the door of winning their first Grand Slam title. They made it to the semifinals at the Masters and were runners-up at the National in their hometown (falling to McEwen at both events). Team McEwen seems to have their number in the playoffs this year and also topped Jacobs in the Canada Cup final.
Lineup: Kevin Koe, Marc Kennedy, Brent Laing and Ben Hebert
WCT Order of Merit ranking: 6th
Koe claimed the Canadian Open and Tim Hortons Brier titles last season, but formed a new team for this year and one that has plenty of experience winning Grand Slam events. Laing won the Canadian Open twice playing with Team Howard while Kennedy and Hebert captured the title three times on Team Martin.
Lineup: Steve Laycock, Kirk Muyres, Colton Flasch and Dallan Muyres
WCT Order of Merit ranking: 10th
Yorkton-born Laycock returns to his hometown as the fan favourite. The team has qualified at both the Masters and the National and look to breakout in their home province to capture their first Grand Slam title.
Lineup: Mike McEwen, B.J. Neufeld, Matt Wozniak and Denni Neufeld
WCT Order of Merit ranking: 1st
How do you stop a rink like Team McEwen? As mentioned above, they’ve won six tournaments this season, including the National Grand Slam title. They are also two-time Canadian Open champions winning the event during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons.
Lineup: Sven Michel, Florian Meister, Simon Gempeler and Stefan Meienberg
Hometown: Adelboden, Switzerland
WCT order of merit ranking: 11th
Michel represented Switzerland at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and also skipped his team to the European Championship title in 2013. The team made two roster changes over the summer bringing in Meister and Meienberg, both formerly of Team Pascal Hess. The new Team Michel finished third at the European championship.
Lineup: John Morris, Pat Simmons, Scott Bailey and Nolan Thiessen
WCT Order of Merit ranking: 8th
Simmons and Thiessen won the Canadian Open and Brier titles last season with skip Kevin Koe and brought on board 2010 Olympic gold medallist John Morris to take the reins. Bailey is filling in for Carter Rycroft at Grand Slam events this season. They dropped their first two games at the National but heated up and won three straight to qualify. Team Bottcher halted them in the quarterfinals.
Lineup: David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews and Michael Goodfellow
Hometown: Stirling, Scotland
WCT order of merit ranking: 12th
Murdoch is a two-time world champion and earned the silver medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The team stayed together for another Olympic run.
Lineup: Jeff Stoughton, Rob Fowler, Alex Forrest and Connor Njegovan
WCT Order of Merit ranking: 15th
Stoughton is a three-time Brier and two-time world champion and sports an all-new lineup this season. He won the Canadian Open title during the 2005-06 season. His new team reached the playoffs at the Masters after playing two tiebreakers in consecutive draws just to qualify.