McEwen caps perfect round robin at Players' Championship

Jason Simmonds
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Gushue to play on Saturday night for spot in Sunday's final

SUMMERSIDE – Mike McEwen of Winnipeg capped a perfect round-robin showing at the 2014 Players’ Championship early Friday evening.

Second stone Adam Casey of Seven Mile Bay follows his shot while third stone Brett Gallant, right, and lead Geoff Walker are ready to sweep during action in the 2014 Players’ Championship in Summerside.

McEwen pulled out a nail-biting 7-6 victory over Olympic gold-medallist Brad Jacobs to up his mark to 5-0.

“We have one hell of a five-rock (rule) record,” said McEwen, who defeated John Epping 7-4 on Friday morning. “We are 18-1 now, I think. It’s crazy. It’s not always pretty out there, but we seem to find ways to win with the five-rock rule. I’m not complaining!”

The men are playing with the five-rock rule this week, and the women are using the four-rock rule.

McEwen and Brad Gushue (4-1), who doubled Steve Laycock (1-4) by an 8-4 count in the noon-hour draw, earned byes to Saturday’s semifinals at 8:30 p.m.

“We had one good end where we were able to score four (in the fourth end), and that gave us the edge for the second half,” said Brett Gallant, third stone of the Gushue rink. “We didn’t quite play our best, but we seemed to make the right shots at the right time.”

Must-win games

Epping scored three deuces in a 7-4 triumph over Niklas Edin (2-3), and Jacobs topped Jeff Stoughton 7-4 in Friday night’s final round-robin games to earn the final two spots in the quarter-finals, which are scheduled for Saturday at 5 p.m.

“There’s always the debate that it’s always nice to play an extra playoff game,” said McEwen. “But when it’s do-or-die, I’ll take the bye any day.

“Our record matters for getting hammer, and that’s important. It gives us a better chance to start the game with a lead. I’m really looking forward to Saturday night.”

Epping, Martin and Jacobs all finished 3-2 while Edin, Stoughton and David Murdoch were 2-3.

Kevin Martin (3-2) won his second game of the day – 5-2 over Kevin Koe – in the late-afternoon draw to clinch a playoff spot. Koe (4-1) will play Jacobs in the quarter-finals while Epping will oppose Martin. In the semifinals, Gushue will take on the winner of Jacobs-Koe and MacEwen will meet the survivor of the Martin-Epping meeting.

“We had to have two wins (Friday),” said Martin, who also won 5-3 over David Murdoch (2-3). “Our backs were against the wall after yesterday (Thursday).

“It’s going to be nice to be playing on the weekend in Summerside. I’m really excited about that. . . We are getting some huge support, and we are feeding off it a little bit. It’s really cool for us. We don’t get the chance to play at home very often, or even on the East Coast. It’s great to have some family up and some friends up (from Charlottetown), and everybody is rallying behind us a bit, which is nice.” Brett Gallant

“We had a tough game against Koe, but luckily we got a big steal (of one) in six to open the game up a bit (for a 4-2 lead).”

Martin said the win against Koe was his rink’s best game of the week.

Clutch shot

McEwen had to make a tough draw on the game’s final shot to score one against Jacobs.

“He (Jacobs) placed his (rock) perfectly, so good that it made my draw harder than I thought it was going to be,” said McEwen. “I had no problem drawing the four-foot, but where he placed his last shot he made me go out wide to hit enough of the rings to out count him.

“I kind of knew out of my hand it was good, but it sure took a long time to curl to get enough of the four-foot.”

Fan favourites

With Gallant and Seven Mile Bay native and second stone Adam Casey playing with Gushue, the rink from St. John’s, N.L., has emerged as the crowd favourites.

“It’s going to be nice to be playing on the weekend in Summerside,” said Gallant. “I’m really excited about that. . .

“We are getting some huge support, and we are feeding off it a little bit. It’s really cool for us.

“We don’t get the chance to play at home very often, or even on the East Coast. It’s great to have some family up and some friends up (from Charlottetown), and everybody is rallying behind us a bit, which is nice.”

Standing ovation

The Glenn Howard rink, which consists of third stone Wayne Middaugh, second stone Brent Laing and lead Craig Savill, played its final game together on Friday, losing 8-6 to Koe. Howard finished the round robin 1-4.

The crowd and players on the ice saluted the Howard rink with a thunderous standing ovation following the game.

It was tweeted by @CurlingZone that in 10 years together the Howard rink, which also includes lead Craig Savill, has an amazing record of 729 wins and 203 losses.

Twitter.com/JpsportsJason

Geographic location: Summerside, East Coast, Charlottetown

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