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Alberta to face undefeated Ontario in Tim Hortons Brier final

From swagger to stagger?  Maybe it was a task too tough for the Moosies.  Getting behind on the scoreboard has, over a period of a couple of seasons in the curling wars, been tough for a lot of teams playing Kevin Koe and his Edmonton troops.

Ontario's Glenn Howard and Craig Savill

Brad Jacobs and his Sault Ste. Marie crew of E.J. Harnden, Ryan Harnden ad Caleb Flaxey, which mounted a pretty potent run in the Tim Hortons Brier at the Metro Centre up until the playoff round, was stung for the second time in as many nights Saturday and, not so suddenly, the Brier was down to same-old, same-old on Sunday.

Which is to say, Ontario vs. Alberta. Or, if you prefer, Alberta vs. Ontario.  This will be the confrontation at the Metro Centre when the Brier concludes at 8 p.m. AT: Ontario, undefeated in 12, versus Alberta, riding a 10-3 streak.

Losers to unbeaten Glenn Howard in the Page One-Two playoff on Friday night, Jacobs and Co., lost its second straight Saturday night when Alberta slammed the pedal to the metal and ran away 10-3 in an eight-end semi-final.

Heading into the final, Howard of Coldwater has been there four times in the last five years. But his 1-3 record over that span is mediocre until you match it with Kevin Koe’s, who has been there no times in any number of years.

Koe, you see, has spent that last few curling campaigns trying to get past Kevin Martin and, before that, Randy Ferbey.

But, and it’s a big one, Koe (Blake MacDonald, Carter Rycroft, Nolan  Thiessen) is representing the province where the defending champ reigns. A team that is 26-and-0 over the last two years.  If anybody can unsettle the 12-and-0 Ontarios, this may be the body. Or will it?

“We have a terrible record against him (Howard),” said Koe. “Just horrible. We’ve lost four Slam finals to him. In fact, with this team, we’ve never ever beaten him.”

But, there’s always a first time.

“This wasn’t the way we thought we’d win,” said Koe of his Saturday night runaway. “We thought it would be a tight one. These guys have had a great week. But we got off to a great start. We went after them in the first end and put a lot of pressure on them. And that steal of two was pretty decisive.”

Jacobs had an improbably difficult draw attempt with his last shot and his rock failed to pick up the required curl.

That was the plan,” said Koe. “We decided to play it aggressively and see what happened.”

What happened was a rout. Following the opening steal of two, Koe stole two more for a 4-0 lead in the third, gave two back in the fourth and then applied a crushing three in the fifth after which it never was a contest.

“It’s a disappointment,” confessed Jacobs, “because we truly believed in our hearts we could win this thing. And it was disappointing to lose in that fashion, getting blown out in the semi-final.

“They (Koes) can throw rockets! When we got behind I knew we were going to have to get lucky. But that first end was brutal. Just brutal! We had zero angles. We made no shots and they made all of theirs.

“We gave Glenn (Howard) a really good run in that One-Two game and we just weren’t there today. Not at all. Not close. Sitting around for 24 hours might have had something to do with it. It might have been a wise idea to come out here this afternoon and throw some rocks.

“But I’m going into the locker room now and sit down and feel pretty proud of myself. Playoffs were our goal and we’re medallists.”

While the Koes plan strategy for Howard, Jacobs and Co., look further ahead.

“We want to come back,” said the Brier’s youngest skip. “Nobody knows what’s in store in the future. All I know is there are a lot of good curlers in Northern Ontario that nobody knows about and this is going to make them a lot hungrier, too. If they put in the time and effort, there’s going to be a few scary teams out of Northern Ontario.

“I’m 24 years old and I’ve put a career aside for curling the past two years. It’s going to be impossible to back away. It’s going to be a whole lot of hard work again.”

Someone reminded the Soo skipper that the North’s last winner, Al Hackner of Thunder Bay, lost two finals before winning his first Brier.

“I thought about that today,” said Jacobs. “We’re going to take a lot of positives out of it. We have another 25 years left. Or so. We have a jump on a lot of teams but there are a lot of good young teams out there. We have to worry about ourselves. We know we’re good curlers, we know we can contend. And you know what? It’s a pleasure holding the broom for such pure throwers as my guys.”

The two Brier finalists each receive $40,000 with Jacobs taking home $30,000 and Brad Gushue’s Newfoundland outfit ending up with $20,000.

The winner, of course, goes on to represent Canada at the World men’s curling championship at Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, April 3-11, in addition to gaining automatic entry to next season’s Canada Cup and Continental Cup events.