Canadian Open champions Team McEwen (from left to right): Matt Wozniak, B.J. Neufeld, Mike McEwen and Denni Neufeld. (Photo: Anil Mungal)

Mike McEwen successfully defends Canadian Open title

December 18, 2011, 4:00 PM

KINGSTON, Ont. — It’s safe to say Mike McEwen likes the five-rock rule.

McEwen capped an undefeated 8-0 run through the Canadian Open defeating Jeff Stoughton 5-2 in Sunday’s all-Winnipeg team final at the K-Rock Centre to successfully defend the title and earn his third career Grand Slam championship.

The team of McEwen, third B.J. Neufeld, second Matt Wozniak and lead Denni Neufeld collected $25,000 in prize money plus 40.000 World Curling Tour Order of Merit points to matain their top spot in the rankings.

“In my opinion, other than a national championship, winning a Grand Slam is the pinnacle of our sport,” McEwen told “You’re playing the 18 best teams in the world all at once, so anytime you can come out on top it’s a really good feeling.”

The Canadian Open was the first Grand Slam of Curling event to test out the five-rock, free guard zone rule. Traditional competitive curling events use the four-rock rule where teams are not allowed to remove an opponent’s rock from the free guard zone until four stones have been played. The five-rock rule extends that by one, giving more control in the end to the team with the hammer, aiming to increase offence and reduce the number of blanked ends by having more rocks in play.

Generating offence wasn’t a problem during the week for McEwen, who rolled through Pool A of the round-robin posting a 5-0 record. McEwen edged out Jean-Michel Menard, of Gatineau/Levis, Que., 6-5 in the quarterfinals and then scored four in the sixth end to close out an 8-2 victory over Sweden’s Niklas Edin to advance to the championship game.

It was a more conservative affair in the final, however. Stoughton’s last rock in the second stopped short and McEwen pounced on the opportunity with an open draw for a deuce to take a 2-0 lead. The teams were held to singles through the third and fourth ends with McEwen remaining in the lead 3-1 at the halfway point of the match.

The teams traded points again through five and six and McEwen extended his lead to 5-2 with a steal of one in the seventh when Stoughton came up light on his last again.

Stoughton held the hammer coming home and almost erased the three-point deficit thanks to the five-rock rule keeping more stones in play. However, McEwen came through in the clutch while facing three with his final shot of the eighth end and nailed a double takeout as Stoughton rank out of rocks.

It was a bit of revenge for McEwen after falling in an extra end to Stoughton, the reigning Brier and world champion, during the Manitoba provincial final in February.

The team of Stoughton, third Jon Mead, second Reid Carruthers, and lead Steve Gould claimed $15,000 and 27.000 OOM points.

Stoughton, who last won a Grand Slam title at this event in 2006, went 4-1 in round-robin play to qualify and scored a 5-2 win over Edmonton’s Kevin Martin during the quarterfinals and an 8-6 victory over World Cup winner Glenn Howard, of Coldwater, Ont., in the semis.

Team McEwen also completed a perfect run through the Canadian Open last season at the General Motors Centre in Oshawa, Ont.

The Canadian Open was the second stop of the 2011-12 Grand Slam of Curling season. The series resumes in the New Year with the National running Jan. 25-29, 2012, in Dawson Creek, B.C., then wraps up on the opposite side of the country with the Players’ Championship, April 17-22, 2012, in Summerside, P.E.I.