Team McEwen celebrate with the Syncrude Elite 10 trophy in Fort McMurray, Alta. (Photo: Anil Mungal)

McEwen wins inaugural Syncrude Elite 10 title

March 22, 2015, 4:24 PM

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. — Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen was on point in the final defeating Niklas Edin of Sweden to capture the inaugural Syncrude Elite 10 title Sunday.

McEwen led 1-up with the hammer in the seventh end and nailed the runback with his final shot to count two and claim his team’s fifth career Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling championship, and second of the season, with the 2 & 1 victory at the match play event.

“It’s the inaugural Syncrude Elite 10, no one ever played this format before, so winning it has an extra cool factor,” McEwen said.

It’s also the eighth World Curling Tour title on the season for the rink of McEwen, B.J. Neufeld, Matt Wozniak and Denni Neufeld as the team has been money all year on the circuit. However, they admitted it took a bit of time to find adapt to the match play format, where teams must score two or more or steal at least one to win an end and the hammer switches when there’s a push.

“It probably took three or four games, I don’t think I knew what I was doing the first half of the round robin,” McEwen said with a smile. “It took some growing pains to figure out what our risk-comfort level was. I think we were taking on too much early in the event. We did a better job managing that for the back-half of the event and had really good results as far as converting a lot of steals and actually the last couple games we were able to fire up the hammer conversion too.”

“We really were struggling early and were able to put it together yesterday and kept it going today,” Wozniak added. “When Mike and B.J. play the way they played the last three games, they were pretty tough to beat. It was a good battle in the end. Niklas made a lot of great shots to keep him in it. I’m just proud of the way we played and put it together.”

McEwen also praised his opponent as Edin had been making ridiculous runbacks all week long to power his team from a 0-2 start to win five consecutive elimination games to reach the final. The sixth end in particular saw Edin fire a long pistol shot that resulted in runback double peel to stay in the game.

“It wasn’t a perfect game but there were some amazing shots. Not just on our side, Nik made some beauties too,” McEwen said. “I thought the first three or four ends were like as good curling as you’ll ever see anywhere.”

McEwen, who captured the National Grand Slam in November, opened the game with the hammer and made the draw for second shot as it stopped just in time to go 1-up after one. Edin countered with an angle raise for a deuce in the second end.

Team McEwen took the lead for good in the third after sitting two and not having to throw their final stone as Edin couldn’t squeeze his last shot through the port and missed the mark.

McEwen now shifts his attention to the Players’ Championship, the fifth and final Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event of the season, April 7-12 in Toronto. A win at the Players’ would not only cap their impressive season but also complete a career Grand Slam for all four members of the team.

“We really want to win the Players’ badly,” McEwen said. “That’s the best-of-the-best Slam there is. That would be amazing going out on top winning that in Toronto.”