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McEwen steals Ménard’s thunder

Mike McEwen is back to where he was 18 hours ago — two wins from a berth at the Canadian Olympic Curling Trials.

Winnipeg’s McEwen rallied for an 8-7 win over Jean-Michel Menard of St-Romuald, Que., in a ‘B’-event quarterfinal on Thursday morning as the Road to the Roar pre-trials, presented by Monsanto, continued at CN Centre.

McEwen had been forced to drop into the ‘B’ qualifier following a 4-2, ‘A’-event semifinal loss to fellow Winnipegger Jeff Stoughton late Wednesday night.

“It was a real nice, satisfying win,” said McEwen, 29, who curls out of the Assiniboine Memorial Curling Club. “It was tough (Wednesday) night, because the ice didn’t allow a real aggressive game. It was straighter.

“So with it being so good this morning, I didn’t really want that opportunity to slip away, and be on our last legs so quickly,” he added,  “when we thought we played really well our first two games. It was nice to get back on track.”

McEwen’s win over Menard was no walk in the park, however. He trailed 7-5 after seven ends, but scored one in the eighth and then stole a point in each of the ninth and 10th ends to cap a dramatic rally. McEwen had pulled off a delicate freeze for shot rock in the ninth, and proficiently guarded a stone on the button in the 10th to author the theft.

“I missed a couple early to get us behind the eight-ball a little bit,” said McEwen, “so it was nice to pull through when I had the opportunity to make the shots for the boys at the end.”

Four men’s tickets and four women’s tickets are up for grabs at Prince George this week to the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Canadian Curling Trials in Edmonton in early December.

In women’s ‘B’ quarterfinals played Thursday morning, No. 9-ranked Krista McCarville of Thunder Bay edged Ottawa’s No. 6-seeded Rachel Homan 8-7, No. 3 seed Marie-France Larouche of St-Romuald, Que., pounded Edmonton’s eighth-seeded Cathy King 10-4, and No. 10-ranked Amber Holland of Kronau, Sask., topped 12th-seeded Sherry Anderson of Saskatoon 8-6.

Larouche, skipping the highest-seeded women’s team in play this morning, was ecstatic stepping off the ice, especially after her outfit posted a four-point seventh to end Thursday’s clash.

“I’m very happy, because the whole team played great. It’s the first time here that all four of us played like we can,” said Larouche, who advances to a ‘B’ semifinal today at 6:30 p.m. PT against the loser of this afternoon’s ‘A’ final between Kelowna’s Kelly Scott and Calgary’s Crystal Webster.

“I knew we could play like that. When we had a chance to put some pressure on, we did.”

McCarville, meanwhile, escaped from her quarterfinal confrontation with Homan, who had notched one in the seventh and then stole a single in the eighth and a deuce in the ninth to tie their game 7-7. McCarville’s rink kept its cool for the winning point in the 10th end.

Homan and Anderson, who lost ‘A’ semis on Wednesday night, both drop to a ‘C1` quarterfinal against each other on Friday morning, with each quartet owning one last chance at this triple-knockout tournament.

“It was a little tense. Started falling apart a little bit the last few ends, but you’ve just got to think about the good shots and stay positive,” said McCarville, who curls out of the Fort William Curling Club. “It’s a ‘W,’ and that’s all that matters. We just forget about it and regroup for our next game.”

That next game comes today at 6:30 p.m. PT in a ‘B’ semi against Holland.

“We felt really confident. All of us, as a team, probably played better than we did the first two games,” said Holland. “We seemed to pick it up a bit more, and just were a little sharper, and that felt good.

“When we secured our two in the sixth end (for a 6-4 advantage), that was big for us. It was the turning point for us that ensured we maintained control.”

No. 1 seed Scott and No. 7 seed Webster meet today at 12:30 p.m. PT in the ‘A’ final, a game to be broadcast live on TSN, for the first of those eight berths to Edmonton. The 12:30 p.m. draw also features a pair of men’s ‘C1’ quarterfinals — Joel Jordison of Moose Jaw, Sask., vs. Jason Gunnlaugson of Beausejour, Man., and Winnipeg’s Kerry Burtnyk vs. Greg McAulay of Richmond, B.C. — with the losers ousted from the tournament.

The winner of tonight’s men’s ‘A’ final at 6:30 p.m. PT between No. 1 seed Stoughton and No. 10-ranked Pat Simmons of Davidson, Sask. — another game broadcast live by TSN — also has its ticket punched to Edmonton.