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N. Ontario, Newfoundland/Labrador headed for first-place showdown

OTTAWA – Front-runners Brad Jacobs of Northern Ontario and Brad Gushue of Newfoundland-Labrador will tangle Friday morning for first place in theTim Hortons Brier.

Both won their games Thursday afternoon, Jacobs remaining unbeaten at 9-0 and Gushue improving to 9-1. The wins mean both are in the Page 1-2 game Friday at 7:30 p.m. (all times Eastern).

“That’s a big game, a huge win for us,” Jacobs said of beating Mike McEwen of Manitoba (6-3; Winnipeg). “Anytime you can make it into the 1-2 game that’s a big accomplishment. Gives us two cracks to make the final.

“We know playing Brad Gushue is going to mean a lot now. It’s going to mean hammer and I believe choice of stones, so there’s no time to let up.”

Gushue took care of business by beating Adam Casey of P.E.I. (2-8; Charlottetown/Summerside) 11-7.

“I will sleep a little easier tonight knowing we have a spot in the 1-2 game,” said Gushue, who is in his 13th Brier and still trying to win his first championship. “(Friday) now is for rocks and hammer, which is big but it’s not crucial. Feels like we haven’t had hammer all week so not crucial, but be nice to have that extra bonus.”

It was almost like Jacobs and Gushue were watching each other’s games Wednesday.

As Jacobs, third Ryan Fry, second E.J. Harnden, lead Ryan Harnden, alternate Lee Toner and coach Caleb Flaxey were trading deuces with McEwen on Sheet C of TD Place, Gushue, third Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant, lead Geoff Walker and coach Jules Owchar were doing the same with Casey on sheet A.

Ottawa Ont.Mar 10, 2016.Tim Hortons Brier.N.L. skip Brad Gushue, P.E.I. lead Robbie Doherty, second Anson Carmody, Curling Canada/ michael burns photo

Newfoundland/Labrador skip Brad Gushue watches his shot as P.E.I.’a Anson Carmody, left, and Robbie Doherty look over his shoulder. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

When Jacobs cracked a three-ender in the seventh end to take control of his game, seconds later Gushue did the same. They weren’t watching, of course, both having their own games top of mind.

“Yeah, we had our hands full, playing Mike McEwen… we were really just focused on our sheet and doing everything we could to win that game,” said Jacobs.

For both teams the spot in the Page 1-2 game was the focus.

“We went out with just as much intensity as usual because if we lost and Manitoba beat Northern Ontario, then we would have to win (Friday) to get to the 1-2 game so we wanted to take care of business today,” said Gushue.

In Wednesday’s other games, Jean-Michel Ménard of Quebec (4-5: Saint-Romuald) beat Mike Kennedy of New Brunswick (3-6; Grand Falls), and Jamie Koe of the Northwest Territories (2-8; Yellowknife) snuck past Jim Cotter of B.C. (2-8; Vernon-Kelowna).

The afternoon byes went to Kevin Koe of Alberta (7-3; Calgary), Pat Simmons and Team Canada (5-5, Calgary), Steve Laycock of Saskatchewan (5-5, Saskatoon) and Glenn Howard of Ontario (4-6; Etobicoke).

Friday’s final round-robin draw goes at 9:30 a.m.. The Page 1-2 playoff game is at 7:30 p.m. The Page 3-4 game is Saturday at 2:30 followed by the semifinal at 7:30 p.m.

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