Mike McEwen shoots a stone during the eighth round-robin draw of the Tour Challenge on Nov. 8, 2018, in Thunder Bay, Ont. (Anil Mungal)

McEwen delivers as Carruthers stays alive at Tour Challenge

November 8, 2018, 6:53 PM

THUNDER BAY, Ont. — Call Mike McEwen the mailman because Team Carruthers’s fourth delivered when they needed it at the Tour Challenge.

The Winnipeg club (1-2) had their backs against the wall but staved off elimination with a 5-2 victory Thursday afternoon over Regina’s Team Matt Dunstone.

The seven-time Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title winner McEwen shot the lights out firing at a 95 percent clip as his team (1-2) picked up their first round-robin win with one pool play game remaining Friday. They’re not out of the woods yet as they need to defeat reigning world champions Team Niklas Edin of Sweden to remain in contention.

A modest McEwen gave credit to his teammates, of course, for setting him up to serve the big performance.

“Were they a little generous?” McEwen asked with a smile. “That felt better. I think the big part of being able to throw that number is I thought that Reid did a good job of managing the game.

“I got to make some shots where we put them under pressure and I made some tough ones too but I really thought Reid did a good job managing the game. Just a better team performance that sometimes helps the skipper, well, the fourth throw up a good number. Team effort.”

The former skip McEwen was a coveted free agent after last season and he joined Team Carruthers at fourth stones while his third B.J. Neufeld went to Team Koe and lead Denni Neufeld moved over to Team Gunnlaugson at second. Meanwhile, third Braeden Moskowy left Team Carruthers, coincidentally joining Team Dunstone, and Carruthers slid down one spot in the order to accomodate McEwen’s arrival.

“It really feels good going into tomorrow with a meaningful game,” McEwen said. “That one’s big for Reid. That’s a teammate game, so he evened it up 1-1 against Mosk. It’s always nice to get him even with a former teammate, that’s got to feel good, and I’m sure I’ll feel the same way every time we play Gunner.”

Dunstone opened with the hammer but was left with only a blank on the board to start after McEwen cleared the deck with a triple takeout on his first stone. McEwen pulled off an off-the-wall double takeout to lie two in the second that sent Dunstone into damage control mode tapping to give up one.

“That was good having that one early,” McEwen said. “It’s kind of one of those shots where I’ve got to throw it really good but the anticipation of the sweep call and Reid and I getting that broom in the right spot, especially early in the game, that’s not easy. We anticipated figuring out where the broom needed to go and made a really good educated guess and I threw it good. It’s really nice to make one of those early. It’s good for the confidence.”

The two-time Canadian junior champion Dunstone (1-2) settled for a single in three to tie it up.

Team Carruthers took over from there. McEwen hit and stuck around for two in the fifth, forced Dunstone to one in six and pulled off a straight double takeout for another deuce in seven that just barely missed hitting his own rocks.

Dunstone was unable to mount a comeback in eight as he never even had a chance to throw either of his skip stones. McEwen doubled out Dunstone’s pair on his first to bring out handshakes.

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Team Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., continued their strong play to qualify for the playoffs at 3-0. The 2014 Olympic champion Jacobs took two in the sixth and stole a pair in the seventh to beat Team Glenn Howard (1-2) of Penetanguishene, Ont., 5-1.

Edmonton’s Team Brendan Bottcher (2-1) crushed Calgary’s Team Kevin Koe (1-1) in short order winning the Battle of Alberta 8-1 in only four ends. Bottcher scored three in the first, four in the third and pinched a point in the fourth.

Team Rich Ruohonen of the United States also improved to a 2-1 record following a 5-4 victory over Toronto’s Team John Epping (1-2).

Switzerland’s Team Silvana Tirinzoni (2-1) is now on a two-game win streak following a 4-3 victory over Sweden’s Isabella Wrana (1-3). Tirinzoni had snapped a six-game skid earlier that stretched back to the Princess Auto Elite 10 women’s final.

The Tour Challenge is the third event of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season and features the largest field in the series with 60 teams split into two tiers of action. Tier 1 includes 15 of the top men’s teams and 15 of the top women’s teams from around the world. Both Tier 2 divisions are composed of the next 10 teams ranked on the World Curling Tour’s Order of Merit plus five teams from within the event’s region.

Round-robin play runs through to Friday night with the top eight teams overall in each division qualifying for Saturday’s quarterfinals. The semifinals are set for Saturday evening with all finals scheduled for Sunday.

NOTES: Winners of the Tour Challenge Tier 1 earn $20,000 of the $200,000 total purse plus berths to the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup event. … Points are also up for grabs in the Tier 1 division towards the Pinty’s Cup, which is awarded to season champions following the conclusion of the Players’ Championship in April. … Tier 2 winners earn the opportunity to move up the ranks receiving invitations to the 2019 Meridian Canadian Open in North Battleford, Sask.

UP NEXT: The Tour Challenge continues at 7 p.m. ET with broadcast coverage on Sportsnet ONE and online at Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and Yare (international).