TORONTO — The farewell tour for Mike McEwen’s team got out to a good start in the Princess Auto Players’ Championship.
McEwen and his Winnipeg club doubled up on Brad Jacobs and his Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., crew 10-5 on the opening day of triple knockout action Tuesday night at Mattamy Athletic Centre.
It’s the final event for Team McEwen, who are parting ways following the conclusion of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling major tournament. McEwen’s wife Dawn, who plays lead for Jennifer Jones’s team, is stepping back from competitive curling although her squad will also compete in the season-ending KIOTI Tractor Champions Cup next month in Olds, Alta.
“I love playing here, it’s a great building and obviously the title sponsor of the event is Princess Auto, our sponsor, so it’s perfect,” McEwen said. “It’s special as one of Dawn’s last events. Unless she pulls a Tom Brady … this will be the last time she and I are on the same ice in a big event, so it’s special for me in that sense.”
McEwen hit to score three points in the first and threaded the needle through the port to tap and count another trey in the fourth end to lead 6-2 at the break. Facing two counters in the fifth, Jacobs was able to hit one but couldn’t roll over to nudge the other and conceded a single steal to fall behind by five.
Jacobs recovered with a three-ender of his own in the sixth, however, McEwen matched with yet another count of three that ended the game early.
“We just seemed to draw really well for the first game of the event,” McEwen said. “We had a handle on the sheet before they did and that was a big difference. In all honesty, they kind of struggled with some of the softer weight, placement shots and we put pressure on them.
“Sometimes that happens in the first game of an event. We were fortunate to be the sharp team, they were off a bit and we jumped on them a few times.”
The Princess Auto Players’ Championship features a triple knockout preliminary round consisting of three brackets: A, B and C. Teams must win three games in order to qualify for the playoffs. Each loss drops a team to a lower bracket until they lose three games and are out of the tournament. Two A teams (3-0 records), three B teams (3-1 records) and three C teams (3-2 records) advance to the quarterfinals.
“It doesn’t take long in this event to be on your last leg, especially a 16-team triple knockout,” McEwen said. “I don’t know if we played No. 4 in the world and now we’re going to play No. 1 or No. 2 in our next game, so very quickly you could end up on your last leg. Any time you can beat a quality team like Team Jacobs, that’s pretty big for us.”
Elsewhere in the evening draw, Edmonton’s Team Brendan Bottcher scored three in the third and stole one in the fourth during a 7-2 victory over Saskatoon’s Team Colton Flasch.
Matt Dunstone scored three in the eighth end to lift his Regina-based club over Team Ross Whyte of Scotland 7-6.
Winnipeg’s Team Jason Gunnlaugson stole one in the sixth and two in the seventh to swipe a 6-3 win from Team Glenn Howard of Penetanguishene, Ont.
McEwen meets reigning Olympic and world champions Team Niklas Edin of Sweden, Bottcher takes on Toronto’s very own Team John Epping, Dunstone plays Scotland’s Team Bruce Mouat and Gunnlaugson clashes with Calgary’s Team Kevin Koe during the A Event semifinals Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Jacobs plays Italy’s Team Joël Retornaz, Flasch faces Team Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., Whyte goes up against Switzerland’s Team Marco Hösli and Howard takes on Team Yannick Schwaller of Switzerland in the B Event quarterfinals.
The Princess Auto Players’ Championship resumes Wednesday with Draw 5 at 8:30 a.m. ET.
NO TICK ZONE
Teams cannot tick guards off of the centre line while the five-rock, free guard zone is in effect. Following an infraction of the rule, the non-offending team may decide to leave the situation as is.
The Princess Auto Players’ Championship is the third event of the 2021-22 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season featuring 16 of the top men’s teams and 16 of the top women’s teams from around the world with a combined $350,000 prize purse. Winning teams earn $35,000. … The Pinty’s Cup will also be awarded to the season champions following the conclusion of the Princess Auto Players’ Championship. Winners of the Pinty’s Cup receive $50,000 bonuses. … Tickets are available at thegrandslamofcurling.com/tickets.