Moving day moved quickly Wednesday morning at the Tim Hortons Brier. Big early wins by Alberta’s Kevin Martin and Newfoundland/Labrador’s Brad Gushue effectively pushed their teams into the playoffs, while at the same time stifling the chances of Saskatchewan’s Steve Laycock and Nova Scotia’s Shawn Adams respectively.
Martin scored early and often against the Regina crew, winning 11-3, handing them their fourth loss. That combined with Gushue’s 9-3 victory over the Bluenosers put four teams – Alberta, Ontario, Newfoundland, and Manitoba – the quartet most favoured coming into the London week – firmly into the weekend equation making the math difficult for any other team to crack.
“It was a big game, if Shawn beats us it keeps him in playoff contention and he would have been a game up on us because he would have beaten us,” said Gushue.
“It was nice to eliminate them and keep us in really good shape,” he said, adding he is getting much more comfortable with the consistency of the ice.
For Alberta, Martin’s crew have been building to a crescendo once again after their streak ending loss to Gushue two nights ago.
“This morning and yesterday too we came on a little stronger, hopefully we can keep on building that’s what you want to do at these things,” said Martin
“Hopefully we don’t hit a wall.”
The win sets up another big prime time match up tonight when Martin will play Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton who is 6-1 and was idle this morning.
Martin says these are the kinds of games he really relishes.
“Jeff (Stoughton) and Jonathan (Mead) have been the two hottest curlers this year, so hopefully we can give them a good run,” said Martin.
Meanwhile, Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs did his part to keep the weekend suspense alive.
Playing what he described as his team’s best overall performance so far this week, he locked in Ontario’s Glenn Howard forcing him to take one in 10 and then scored with hammer in the extra end for a 5-4 win. That evened the Soo team’s mark at 4-4 and leaves them tied with Saskatchewan on that critical four loss line, one that was not good enough for weekend play in Halifax last year.
“It feels good to finally put a solid performance together – all four guys,” said Jacobs, who was aware of Northern Ontario’s record against their southern rivals over the years.
In the past 17 years, only once has Northern Ontario won that match-up, in 2003 when Scott Henderson of Thunder Bay beat Bryan Cochrane of Ottawa.
“Yeah, I was aware, I read it in the paper,” said Jacobs.
“I thought about that a couple times in the game, so it was great to get one of those back for Northern Ontario.”
Howard did have a chance to get his deuce in 10 to get the win, trying to draw a narrow port and bump button rocks around , but instead it rubbed on the front setting up the extra end.
“The shot was definitely there, but unfortunately it just rubbed,” said Howard who added there wasn’t any risk in trying the shot.
“We were either going to score one or two… but the shot was definitely there.”
He tipped his cap to his provincial opponents.
“You have to give Brad and his guys credit, they battled hard out there… curled very well.”
In other action, B.C.’s Jim Cotter downed Quebec’s Francois Gagne 8-7, also in an extra end. B.C. is now at 3-5, while Quebec drops to 2-6.
Howard is back on the ice this afternoon taking on P.E.I., Saskatchewan finds itself in must-win territory against Stoughton, Gushue takes on 2-5 New Brunswick, and Jamie Koe of the Territories (2-5) plays B.C.
Martin, now leading the standings at 7-1, says despite a few early upsets, this year’s Brier field separation is not that surprising, with four favoured teams jumping to the head of the pack.
“We see that most years,” says Martin.
“If you’ve got a lot of swing in the ice, you’ve got aggressive play, and the highest percentage team is going to win.”