NEEPAWA — Former Brandonite Mike McEwen has a new attitude this season, and he’s hoping it will result in a provincial men’s curling championship title at Neepawa.
In previous years, McEwen and his team of B.J. Neufeld, Matt Wozniak and Denni Neufeld desperately wanted to win the Safeway Championship. Not only did they want to earn Canadian Team Ranking System points to qualify for the Olympic trials, but they also felt they needed to prove something by winning the event. The result was three straight provincial silver medals.
They have a little less pressure on them now as they’ve locked up their spot at the Roar of Rings, and that has created an attitude change. No longer do they feel they have to win and prove themselves, and they’re enjoying themselves a lot more on the ice.
"You’d love to say, ‘Nah, it’s not because of that,’ but I think a big reason is (getting) the Trial berth and we’re maturing," said McEwen, a two-time junior and one-time mixed provincial champion. "Some of us more than others, but we’re slowly getting there. You go through life changes. Sometimes it’s not the be all and end all on the ice. Priorities start to change and there may be a bigger picture for our team as we mature. If that helps us enjoy it more, then I like our chances in our future."
McEwen’s relaxed approach may have cost them a bit on the cash circuit this season. Although they’ve been consistent, McEwen’s squad hasn’t won as many events as last season and has $69,361 in winnings on the World Curling Tour.
However the team has looked good through the first three days of competition at provincials. They won all three of their A-side games to reach the playoff round, where they met Rob Fowler in last night’s late draw.
One of the biggest reasons McEwen said his team is peaking right now is good communication between all four players on his team.
"Sometimes you notice on TV that we don’t talk too much, especially in a stressful tight game," he said. "That’s one thing we’ve been working on is talking more. If communication breaks down, all of a sudden you’re in your own head, you’re probably not having as much fun as you should and you’re not going to perform. Communication’s been big and hopefully that bodes well on Saturday and Sunday."
While he’s relaxed, McEwen’s passion for getting to a Brier has not subsided. He just hopes his team’s new attitude will help them get over the hump and finally earn him a trip to the Canadian championship, instead of making him a four-time runner-up.
"If we can bring (our game) tomorrow, there’s no reason why we can’t be playing on Sunday," he said. "I’d like to make our fourth final in a row. That’s small company doing that. I don’t want to be in the company that ends up on the short end of that, but that says something about us if we can make our fourth final this week and at least have a chance."