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Koe hits clutch shot to advance to Home Hardware Canada Cup final

Kevin Koe started strong in the Home Hardware Canada Cup, presented by Meridian Manufacturing, this week. Now his Calgary team is looking to finish strong by winning it all.

Koe, who last won the title in 2008, never trailed in defeating Toronto’s John Epping 7-6 in an extra end in Saturday evening’s semifinal at Revolution Place in Grande Prairie, Alta.

“It feels good for sure. That was a big game,” said Koe, who plays with third Marc Kennedy, second Brent Laing and lead Ben Hebert. “They played great. We were always in control, never down, but they just never went away. It was a good battle for us and nice to pull it out.

Koe will meet Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen in Sunday’s final (5 p.m. MT). McEwen, the defending Home Hardware Canada Cup champion, and Koe, the 2010 and 2014 Tim Hortons Brier champ, were tied for first at 5-2 after the round-robin, but McEwen was awarded top spot by virtue of his win over Koe during the eight-team round-robin.

“It’ll be tough,” said Koe of the final. “We actually had a great game with them in the round-robin (Friday afternoon). They played great. I don’t know what their percentages were, easily over 90 as a team I’m guessing. We played good all week with the exception of one game in the round-robin and we’ve had a good year and we’ve just got to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

In the semifinal’s extra end, Koe gently tapped back one of his own stones to the edge of the button to out-count Epping’s finesse draw with his final shot. Fortunately he’s comfortable making big shots.

“You just kind of get used to it,” said Koe. “Obviously you have a bit of a routine and try and keep every shot the same. I had a good feel on the weight there and we’d played a lot in that spot so if felt good and the guys swept it perfect.”

Epping scored two in the 10th to bring on the extra end. He made a draw to the four-foot after Koe’s attempt to blast two Epping stones only got rid of one.

From left, Tim March, Patrick Janssen and Mat Camm take a break from the action in Saturday's men's semifinal. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

From left, Tim March, Patrick Janssen and Mat Camm take a break from the action in Saturday’s men’s semifinal. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Up until then the key end looked like it was going to be the seventh, when Koe scored two to take a 5-3 lead after Epping rolled out with his final shot just as he appeared set to force Koe to settle for one. He followed that up by forcing Epping to take one with a draw to the four-foot when he made a nice tap to lie two.

“Disappointed at the end result but pretty proud of how we played and grinded the day out,” said Epping. “It was overall a great learning experience with guys that haven’t been to this level of stage. It’s good to be out there in a game like that. We had a blast.”

Epping took a long road to get to the semi. His team of third Mat Camm, second Pat Janssen and lead Tim March were required to win five games in 32 hours. They won their final three round-robin games — two on Friday and one Saturday morning — before winning a 7-5 shootout with 2015 Tim Hortons Brier winner Pat Simmons of Calgary in a tiebreaker in the afternoon to advance to the semi.

Epping shrugged his shoulders when asked if fatigue was a factor.

“It has to, I guess. I don’t know. It had to,” he said. “I would like to think maybe we would have been better under pressure but I thought we hung in there for being as tired as we were. We tried not to show it if we were.”

Now Epping’s focus turns to winning Ontario and play in the 2016 Tim Hortons Brier scheduled for March 5-14 in Ottawa.

“We really want to be at the Brier, especially in Ontario. It would be really special,” Epping said.

The men’s and women’s winning teams at the Home Hardware Canada Cup will receive $14,000. They’ll also earn two other valuable rewards. They will get the first berth in the 2017 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Curling Trials in Ottawa. That will determine Canada’s four-player team representatives to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

And that’s not all. Sunday’s victors will automatically represent North America at the 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup, presented by Boyd Gaming, in Las Vegas, Jan. 14-17.

The women’s final will feature Rachel Homan of Ottawa — 2013 and 2014 Scotties Tournament of Hearts winner — taking on defending Home Hardware Canada Cup champions Val Sweeting of Edmonton in a rematch of last year’s final in Camrose, Alta. Sweeting defeated Jennifer Jones 5-3 Saturday afternoon to advance to the final against Homan who finished first in the seven-team round robin.

TSN/TSN2 and RDS2 will provide complete coverage of the Hardware Canada Cup. Go to http://www.tsn.ca/curling-on-tsn-1.365469 for the complete schedule

For ticket information for the 2015 Home Hardware Canada Cup, go to http://www.curling.ca/2015canadacup/tickets/

This story will be posted in French as soon as possible at http://www.curling.ca/2015canadacup/?lang=fr