SELKIRK – After the pain and agony of defeat in the final five times before Mike McEwen finally captured his first provincial men’s curling title. McEwen defeated Matt Dunstone 4-2 in Sunday’s Viterra Championship final at the Selkirk Recreation Centre.
McEwen was forced to make a clutch raise double takeout with his first shot of the 10th end in a 2-2 game. Then with the game hanging in the balance and the pressure on, McEwen made the tap back to score a deuce to win the title.
Strangely enough McEwen clinched his Brier berth earlier in the day when Dunstone defeated defending champion Reid Carruthers in the semifinal. Dunstone as the Canadian Junior Men’s Champion is already committed to the Worlds next month in Denmark and couldn’t have attended the Brier even if they won.
“It was such a strange feeling playing that final just because of the underlying story of already clinching a Brier berth.” McEwen said. “That was really strange, something I could have never foresaw or predicted. The shot at the end still felt the same though.”
McEwen avoids the distinction of becoming the first non-champion to represent Manitoba at the Brier. After all their previous losses in the final, they didn’t want to enter the Brier through the back door.
“We didn’t want go in in 2nd place.” McEwen said. “I felt less pressure, yeah I did, until the last two shots.”
“Never once felt like that Brier berth was secure.” said second Matt Wozniak. “It felt the full pressure. We wanted to win this game. We’ve been here so many times. The relief is pretty great.”
“We weren’t the team that wanted to back into the Brier.” lead Denni Neufeld said. “We wanted to win our way into the Brier. Our goal today was to come out and perform well and hopefully we were going to be on the winning side and it happened.”
After nine seasons together as a team the McEwen foursome earned their first purple heart and avoided a sixth loss in a Manitoba men’s final.
“The more finals you lose, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t get harder. I mean it never gets easier when you want it so bad.” said third B.J. Neufeld. “We’ve worked so hard for this and had so much hardship in previous years losing five finals We’re just ecstatic that we were able to come up with our best game when it mattered most and win this thing.”
Dunstone and his team of 20-year-olds pushed McEwen right to the brink and will surely be a force to reckon with on the Manitoba curling scene for years to come.
“To get a taste at 20 years old of a men’s provincial final is unbelievable. It’s an experience that’s going to help us out later on.” Dunstone said. “We gave it all we had out there. They weren’t missing as you saw out there. I mean you couldn’t have asked for a better final. I mean both teams really wanted it. You could sure see it out there.”
“It’s shocking how good they are.” McEwen said. “They’re gonna make me retire early. I might not have many years left.”
WATCH: Reaction from members of Team McEwen and finalist Matt Dunstone following the final.