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Veteran Gushue spoils McEwen’s debut at Tim Hortons Brier

OTTAWA – Veteran Brad Gushue spoiled Mike McEwen’s debut in the Tim Hortons Brier Saturday, making a last-rock hit-and-stick in the 11th end for a 5-4 victory in the event’s opening draw.

While Gushue is playing in his 13th Tim Hortons Brier, this is the first for Winnipegers McEwen, third B.J. Neufeld, second Matt Wozniak, lead Denni Neufeld and alternate Jon Mead. The team had lost in five of the previous six Manitoba finals before finally winning this year.

Despite the loss McEwen was pleased with how his team performed.

“I’m happy with how comfortable we looked out there,” he said. “That was key for us, that there were no jitters, we were ready to play right away.”

After a somewhat erratic first end that saw McEwen have to make an angled raise tap back for a single, the two teams put on an exhibition of great shots throughout the game. Both teams ended up shooting 93 per cent.

“We said there’s going to be times when you play in the 90s and lose and there’s a handful of teams that happens (against),” said McEwen. “We’re playing another one of those tomorrow morning.”

After giving up one in the first end, Gushue and his Newfoundland/Labrador (St. John’s) teammates — third Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant, lead Geoff Walker and coach Jules Owchar — scored two in the third, gave up singles in the fourth and fifth and got two more in the sixth.

“The first few ends were like haymakers been thrown by both teams,” said Gushue, who is still trying to win his first Tim Hortons Brier. “I didn’t expect the first end to be like that. It looked like we could steal two and then give up five, then steal two and we ended up forcing one which was a good result for us.”

One of the key plays of the game came in the 10th end. With Newfoundland-Labrador sitting three counters in the four foot, Wozniak committed a hog-line violation with his rock.

Team Canada's John Morris had plenty of fans in the crowd on Saturday. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Team Canada’s John Morris had plenty of fans in the crowd on Saturday. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

“Made a perfect shot and then it got taken away,” said McEwen. “Would we have gotten two? I don’t know, hard to say.”

Gushue said he got lucky with the hog-line violation, “no doubt about that, but we were still in pretty good shape even if it got in there. We made the shots we needed to win.

“It’s one of the better games I’ve been part of at the Brier. When you play as well as our team played you expect to win a little easier than that. It was a battle, I’m tired.”

Meanwhile, Jamie Koe of Northwest Territories (Yellowknife) scored deuces in the second and fourth ends but needed a miss by James Murphy with his last rock in the 10th end to score a 7-4 win over Nova Scotia (Halifax) to win the qualifying play-in game and earn a berth in the main Brier round-robin.

Glenn Howard of Ontario (Toronto) stole a single in the eighth and then made a last-rock draw in the 11th to edge Kevin Koe of Alberta (Calgary) 5-4.

Pat Simmons and Team Canada scored two in the second and stole one in the fifth when Jean-Michel Ménard of Quebec was thin on an angle raise takeout and opened defence of their Tim Hortons Brier title with a 7-3 victory.

Not playing in the first draw were Brad Jacobs of Northern Ontario (Sault Ste. Marie), Adam Casey of Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown/Summerside), Mike Kennedy of New Brunswick (Grand Falls), Steve Laycock of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon) and Jim Cotter of British Columbia (Vernon/Kelowna).

The second draw Saturday goes at 7:30 p.m. ET.

For ticket and other event information, visit http:// http://www.curling.ca/2016brier/tickets/

For the complete schedule, go to http://www.curling.ca/2016brier/draw/

This story will be posted in French as soon as possible at http://www.curling.ca/2016brier/?lang=fr

TSN (RDS2 in French), the exclusive television network for Curling Canada’s Season of Champions, will provide complete coverage of the 2016 Tim Hortons Brier.