CONCEPTION BAY SOUTH, N.L. — Mike McEwen and his Winnipeg team are still in it to win it at the Boost National.
Team McEwen picked up a 5-4 victory in an extra end over Toronto’s Team John Epping during Friday afternoon’s action at CBS Arena to wrap up round-robin play at 2-2 and remain in playoff contention.
McEwen, who has won seven titles in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling, must wait for the results of the two remaining round-robin draws to determine if his club advances straight to the quarterfinals or will need to play a tiebreaker in order to qualify.
“We’re just happy to still be playing and not heading home earlier or anything like that,” Team McEwen lead Colin Hodgson said. “We want to win a Slam. Our team needs something like this to get back into it.
“It’s been so roller-coaster since we put it together, we just need some consistency. We had felt that in the fall, our last five events, it feels like the team is starting to perform at the level we feel we should be. Winning two games at a Slam is pretty darn good still.”
A graphic aired during the second end of the game’s broadcast — and on the big screen in the arena — highlighting Team McEwen’s winning percentage in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling since they joined together: 40 per cent. It may have rattled them considering they had a shot to score four points in that end and messed it up to concede a steal.
“It is kind of deflating when you see on the big screen during the second end what our percentages as a team are without each other and with each other,” Hodgson said. “As much as you try not to focus on other things during a game when something pops up on a big screen behind the sheet about that, it’s kind of deflating so we took a bit of a dive there for a little bit in part of the game and it was frustrating.
“We struggled with some rocks there too. I think maybe we didn’t make the best plan. Anyway, it was nice to come back from that. As much as it was deflating, this feels so much better just to get a win. Slams are so hard now to get any wins. To get 2-2, I think we’re fairly happy with that result.”
Team McEwen caught some breaks late in the match with Epping missing an angle raise in the seventh that allowed them to draw for three points and a 4-3 lead. Epping had an open hit for the winning deuce in eight but rolled out and only counted the tying single. McEwen made no mistake on his hit to put the game away in the extra end.
“John doesn’t miss that shot,” Hodgson said. “He plays that shot 100 times and I don’t know if he misses it more than once. We got lucky that we were part of the 100.”
It was a must-win match for both squads as the world No. 1 ranked Epping ended his run at 1-3 and was eliminated.
Edmonton’s Team Brendan Bottcher punched their playoff ticket with an 8-4 win over Team Yannick Schwaller of Switzerland. Bottcher (3-0) has one more group game while Schwaller heads home winless at 0-4.
Regina’s Team Matt Dunstone (1-3) capped their run in the win column defeating Team Ross Paterson 7-2. The defending champions from Scotland slipped to a 2-2 record.
Team Tracy Fleury completed a perfect run through pool play in the women’s division with a 7-5 win over Team Silvana Tirinzoni. The Masters champions from East St. Paul, Man., had already clinched a playoff spot but are now all fired up at 4-0 to secure one of the top two seeds for the playoffs.
“We’re really happy about that and it’s nice to be able to get the hammer for the playoffs,” Fleury said. “It’s been a good week.”
“It was a really good game, a really tight battle,” she added. “They put some pressure on us in a couple of ends but we managed to get out of it. It was a really well-played game.”
Tirinzoni, the reigning world champion from Switzerland, finished round-robin play at 2-2.
Scotland’s Team Eve Muirhead qualified for the playoffs at 3-1 with a 6-4 victory over Team Kerri Einarson (2-2) of Gimli, Man.
The top eight teams overall in both divisions advance to Saturday afternoon’s quarterfinals. The semifinals are scheduled for Saturday evening with both finals set for Sunday.
NOTES: The Boost National is the third event and second major of the 2019-20 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season featuring 15 of the top men’s teams and 15 of the top women’s teams from around the world. Qualification is based on the WCF World Team Ranking system. … A $300,000 combined purse is on the line, split equally between both divisions, with the winners receiving $35,000 each plus berths to the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup in Olds, Alta. … Teams also earn points towards the Pinty’s Cup awarded to the season champions following the conclusion of the Players’ Championship in April.