Mike McEwen, Glenn Howard take opening wins at Canadian Curling Trials qualifier

© Curling Canada/Twitter Team Mike McEwen earned an opening win on Wednesday in Ottawa at the Canadian Curling Trials.

Mike McEwen and Glenn Howard each notched opening wins at the Canadian Curling Trials Direct-Entry Event on Wednesday in Ottawa.

Winnipeg’s McEwen defeated the team led by Saskatoon’s Colton Flasch in a 5-3 match at the RA Centre, while Howard beat Regina’s Matt Dunstone in a 9-5 battle.

It started with McEwen scoreless, and Flasch on the board with points in both the second and third ends. But McEwen rebounded in the fourth, quickly amassing four points by the sixth end. 

Both teams were only able to collect one more before the finish. 

In the other match, Team Dunstone went dry after the second end, only scoring points again in the sixth and eighth. 

Two men’s berths and three women’s are available for the main playdowns in November’s Tim Hortons Curling Trials in Saskatoon.

The other competitor in the men’s event is Jason Gunnlaugson. The women’s field includes rinks led by Suzanne Birt, Corryn Brown, Kelsey Rocque, Casey Scheidegger and Laura Walker.

Pre-trial action

Also on Wednesday, Canadian Curling Pre-Trials Direct-Entry action saw Ashley Howard, Jessie Hunkin (who’s filling in at skip for new mom Robyn Silvernagle), Laurie St-Georges and Kerry Galusha earn big victories. 

Two teams will emerge from the triple-knockout draw to play at the Oct. 26-31 Home Hardware Pre-Trials, which will determine the last two men’s and women’s entries for Saskatoon.

Howard was the first to play, besting Kaitlyn Jones 8-4 in nine ends. 

Hunkin defeated Lauren Mann 12-2 in eight ends, while Galusha denied Sarah Wark the win by going 10-4 in nine ends. 

St-Georges dropped Jill Brothers 8-4, also in nine ends. 

“First win, and it’s a big win,” said St-Georges. “It was a great game; a lot of opportunities and we played well, we made some big shots at the end. First win is always nice; we’re just going to keep trying to stay in the ‘A’.” 

Brothers had been hoping there might be an outside chance her team — ranked 47th in the world — could somehow find its way into those trials, hosted next month in her hometown of Liverpool, N.S.

A five-time participant at the women’s national championship, she was floored to receive a recent email with an unexpected invitation to play in a new qualification event with two Pre-Trials spots on the line.

“I jumped out of my chair at work and screamed like a schoolgirl,” Brothers said Wednesday. “My co-worker was terrified.”

Revised criteria on long qualifying road

The games are part of the long qualifying road to the Nov. 20-28 Tim Hortons Curling Trials, which will determine Canada’s four-player teams for the Beijing Games.

Teams in the pre-trials qualified based on their world curling team ranking as of July. Three of four returning players from declared 2020-21 lineups were required. 

Curling Canada revised its qualifying criteria because the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out most of the 2020-21 events that would have normally determined the fields.

Six of the eight men’s entries are Winnipeg-based teams with Team Shaun Meachem (Saskatoon) and Team Vincent Roberge (Etchemin, Que.) the only exceptions.

Brendan Bottcher, John Epping, Brad Gushue, Brad Jacobs and Kevin Koe are the men’s teams that have already booked their tickets to the main trials. 

The four women’s teams to do the same include Kerri Einarson, Tracy Fleury, Rachel Homan and Jennifer Jones.

Canada did not reach the podium in the men’s or women’s team competitions at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The 2022 Beijing Games are set for Feb. 4-20.

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