Team McEwen celebrate their victory with their daughters at the Pinty's Grand Slam of Curling Elite 10 in Winnipeg on March 18, 2018. (Anil Mungal)

McEwen wins lucky 7th GSOC title at hometown Elite 10

March 18, 2018, 1:55 PM

WINNIPEG — The Team McEwen farewell tour is turning into an award tour.

Mike McEwen’s crew captured their lucky seventh Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title in their hometown Princess Auto Elite 10 match-play tournament defeating Brad Gushue’s club from St. John’s, N.L., 3 & 1 (winning four ends to one) in Sunday’s final.

McEwen, third B.J. Neufeld, second Matt Wozniak and lead Denni Neufeld announced last week they will be parting ways after the season. The team was on fire all week running the table with an undefeated 6-0 record and saved the best for last shooting an incredible 90 percent against Team Gushue to electrify the nearly sold-out crowd at St. James Civic Centre.

“The perfect weekend to do it: at home and a little luck of the Irish,” said McEwen, who collected $28,000 and a spot in the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup. “We played so well from start to finish and just fell in love with this format. I played it a couple times before but wow, maybe this might serve notice of another evolution of the game, potentially. A lot of really good ideas were implemented in this Grand Slam. It’s exciting to be part of that.”

McEwen had the choice to start with the hammer or select rock colour and made the swerve opting for the latter. Although it was risky, it turned into a reward as McEwen didn’t need the hammer stealing the first couple ends for an early 2-up stranglehold.

“That could have backfired, could have got down early but didn’t,” McEwen explained. “We had a set of stones that we were really comfortable with. We knew what they were doing. We had played a couple games with them. In this format, the hammer might not even really be an advantage at all to start the game. I guess the stats will eventually start to show a trend there but right now we don’t know so we thought it was important to be comfortable with a set of stones. That was the most important thing for us today.”

Gushue faced three on his last in the first end and threw a stick of dynamite at the quarry but when the dust settled it was still one McEwen stone. The nine-time Grand Slam winner Gushue needed to cover the pin in the second with McEwen holding a piece of the button. It looked good but rolled just an inch too far for another steal.

The pressure was on again in the third with McEwen sitting another cluster trio. Gushue went for a wicked shot from nearly off the wall like a pair of Vans to get into the pile and nudge McEwen’s shot rock to avoid a steal and push it.

McEwen continued to play unreal making a marvellous shot in the fourth end nudging his own back to kick out Gushue’s counter to score and hold a firm grasp on the game.

A rare McEwen miss on the day in the fifth end opened the door for Gushue to deliver an open hit and get on the scoreboard for the first time in the game to cut the deficit down to two.

The plot continued to thicken as McEwen drew to the back of the four-foot circle for a push in six to lose the hammer, but things were looking dormie for Gushue, who needed to win out the remaining two ends in order to force a shootout for the title.

Gushue had a shot to score in the seventh through the port to hit but just wicked the guard and missed the mark as McEwen tacked on another steal.

The Princess Auto Elite 10 had a new rule this year: Thinking time was changed from 33 minutes to four minutes per end. If a team ran out of time, they could not throw any more rocks in the end.

Team McEwen also won the inaugural Elite 10 tournament in 2015.

Next up for the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling is the 26th running of the Players’ Championship taking place April 10-15 at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto.