Neufeld skips Team McEwen into Viterra Championship final

Team McEwen's B.J. Neufeld shoots a stone during the 2017 Masters in Lloydminster, Sask. (Anil Mungal)

B.J. Neufeld has booked Team McEwen a spot back into the Viterra Championship final in Winkler.

Neufeld, who is skipping the squad with Mike McEwen recovering from chicken pox, defeated J.T. Ryan 6-2 in Sunday morning’s semifinal.

The double defending champions take on Reid Carruthers’s club for the title and the right to represent Manitoba at the Tim Hortons Brier.

Watch the final live on Sportsnet and online at Sportsnet NOW at 4 p.m. ET

The six-time Grand Slam champion McEwen fell ill after the team’s opening victory of the men’s provincial curling championship and was taken to a hospital Thursday. The Winnipeg crew pushed forward as a trio with vice Neufeld shifting up to last stones and second Matt Wozniak and lead Denni Neufeld each throwing three rocks. McEwen was released Sunday and returned for the final throwing third stones.

Team McEwen earned four additional wins without their skip before losing to Carruthers 7-3 in Saturday’s Page 1-2 playoff game to slip into the semifinal.

Neufeld opened with the hammer and jumped out to an early 4-0 lead. The 20-year-old Ryan, who recently skipped Manitoba to bronze at the Canadian juniors, made a runback on his own guard in the first but just missed the rock allowing Neufeld to draw the button for two. Neufeld sat a couple counters in the second forcing Ryan to draw for a single, but he was tight to his own higher up in the house and crashed out to give up a steal.

After Neufeld made a cross-house double in three, Ryan hit and rolled out to blank the board. Ryan was forced to a single in the fourth and Neufeld matched with a point in the fifth to re-establish the four-point gap although it was a missed opportunity as he had a draw for two that rolled heavy.

Another Neufeld double takeout in six led to Ryan blanking again. Looking at two in the four-foot circle, Ryan hit the top one but didn’t roll in far enough and conceded another point to fall behind 6-1.

Neufeld remained in control and cleared the house in eight. Ryan drew for one and shook hands.

Ryan defeated Steve Irwin of Brandon 5-3 in the Page 3-4 playoff game.

The West St. Paul-based team of Carruthers, third Braeden Moskowy, second Derek Samagalski and lead Colin Hodgson beat McEwen to capture the Manitoba title during their first season together in 2015. Carruthers also claimed three provincial titles while playing with legendary skip Jeff Stoughton as well as Brier and world championships in 2011.

The Tim Hortons Brier runs March 3-11 in Regina. Should Team McEwen not retain the provincial title, they will still have another opportunity at qualifying for the Brier via the wildcard play-in game as the No. 1 ranked club on the Canadian Team Ranking System (CTRS).

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