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Team Canada on the ropes after tough loss to Newfoundland-Labrador

OTTAWA – Now the game plan for Team Canada is simple – win or say good-bye to repeating as Tim Hortons Brier champions.

The Pat Simmons-skipped crew from Calgary gave up three in the second end and a steal of two in the third to Brad Gushue and that was more than enough for the Newfoundland-Labrador team to roll to a 7-3 victory Wednesday morning.

“We have to win our last three games, that’s all that matters now,” said a dejected Canada lead Nolan Thiessen, whose team dropped to 4-4 with the setback. “Can’t worry about what happened before. They’re executing and we’re not. Either we start executing or our Brier is over.”

The defending champions had three losses early in the 2015 Brier before Simmons, playing third, and then-skip John Morris traded positions and they rallied to win the championship. But with just one win in their last five games this week, they are now on the edge of the cliff with four losses.

“We’re playing very well,” said Gushue, who along with third Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant, lead Geoff Walker and coach Jules Owchar improved to 6-1. “I didn’t like a couple of things out there (in the late ends), but we haven’t been in that situation this week. All of our games have been really tight. Any time you can get a good team against the ropes it’s a good idea.”

With his final stone in the second end Gushue came through a port and executed a perfect three-stone double takeout to score three. A couple of uncharacteristic misses by Canada in the third end left Simmons facing four Gushue counters with his final stone. He tried a tough triple and hoped his shot would stay but he got only two and rolled out, leaving Newfoundland-Labrador a steal of two.

“We played a real quality second end,” said Gushue, in his 13th Tim Hortons Brier and still seeking his first championship. “We got a bit fortunate on one of their shots that we ended up looking really pretty after it, and got three.

“First time we got three all week. Deuces have been hard to come by so to get three was nice. And then the following end Pat made a mistake on his last one. I thought he had a fairly easy shot there to get one, which still would have been fine with us, be up 3-1, but to get two there was definitely a bonus and a lucky break for us.”

After a difficult 8-3 loss to Northern Ontario Tuesday night, Kevin Koe of Alberta (5-3; Calgary) scored three in the second end and went on to a 7-2 win over Jim Cotter of British Columbia (2-5; Vernon-Kelowna) to improve to 5-3.

“We played well this morning,” said Alberta second Brent Laing. “A tough day yesterday with two losses. We wanted to get the train back on the track and caught a couple of breaks.”

Ontario's Scott Howard, left, and his dad Glenn ponder the situation on Wednesday. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Ontario’s Scott Howard, left, and his dad Glenn ponder the situation on Wednesday. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Glenn Howard of Ontario (4-4; Etobicoke) beat Adam Casey of Prince Edward Island (1-6; Charlottetown-Summerside) in a game with the historical note of being the first Brier game with two father-son duos on the ice for the same team at the same time. Glenn and Scott Howard are regulars on the Ontario team while third Richard Hart was joined by his son Joey, who is the alternate.

Steve Laycock of Saskatchewan (4-4; Saskatoon) made a last-rock hit-and-stick in the 11th end to get by Jamie Koe of Northwest Territories (1-6; Yellowknife) 5-4.

Not playing in the morning draw were Brad Jacobs of Northern Ontario (6-0; Sault Ste. Marie), Mike McEwen of Manitoba (4-2; Winnipeg), Jean-Michel Ménard of Quebec (3-3; Saint-Romuald) and Mike Kennedy of New Brunswick (2-4; Grand Falls).

Today’s other draws are at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. ET.

For ticket and other event information, 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