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Newfoundland-Labrador advances to final of Tim Hortons Brier

OTTAWA – Brad Gushue of Newfoundland-Labrador made a gentle tapback to count one in the 11th end Friday to beat Brad Jacobs of Northern Ontario 7-6 in the Page 1-2 playoff game and earn a berth in Sunday’s gold-medal game of the Tim Hortons Brier.

In his 13th Tim Hortons Brier, Gushue, along with third Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant, lead Geoff Walker and coach Jules Owchar, will be trying to win his first Canadian men’s curling championship after surviving early pressure from Jacobs and then turning the game in his favour in the middle ends.

“One win away. That was a heck of a game, heck of a win,” he said.

“It took every bit of mental strength not to get frustrated because they were making absolutely everything … until he jammed it in six,” Gushue continued. “We got the deuce, which got us a bit of momentum and then in seven we got a couple of lucky breaks when (Ryan) Fry jammed a couple peels and we got a big steal of two. That really flipped the game over, and gave all the momentum to us. We played incredibly well the seventh end on.”

While Gushue advances to Sunday’s final, Northern Ontario will play in Saturday’s semifinal against the winner of the Page 3-4 game between Kevin Koe of Alberta (8-3; Calgary) and Mike McEwen of Manitoba (8-3; Winnipeg). Saturday’s Page 3-4 game goes at 2:30 p.m. (all times ET) followed by the semifinal at 7:30 p.m.

Brad Gushue salutes the crowd after his win on Friday night. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Brad Gushue salutes the crowd after his win on Friday night. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Jacobs, who had gone through the round robin unbeaten in 11 games, including a 4-1 win over Gushue Friday morning in the final draw, said his team played really well for five ends, “pretty ugly for the second half.”

“We just have to stay positive and try to take some things away from that game,” he said. “There’s a lot to be said for playing your way though these things and we’ve done it before.”

Jacobs got two in the first end with a perfect freeze followed by a draw through a port. Gushue had tried to play the end in front of the house, but Jacobs forced him into the house and that created the chance he was looking for.

That put Gushue and his team behind the 8-ball, knowing they weren’t likely to get many chances against a Northern Ontario team that had been shooting lights out all week.

Jacobs forced Newfoundland-Labrador to draw for a single in the third end and then jumped on a Gushue miss in five for another deuce. After Nichols had made a tough rub-and-roll to shot, Gushue was just wide enough on a tap-back try to leave Jacobs the chance to draw the edge of the button for another two and 4-1 lead.

With Ryan Harnden and Jacobs still shooting 100 per cent through three ends the Northern Ontario team was playing its typical game — pressure, pressure, pressure.

But Gushue and his team, having been through the pressure of plenty of Briers in the past, refused to crack.

It paid off in the sixth and seventh ends.

In the sixth Jacobs tried an angled runback but got a nose-hit and left Gushue a draw for two. In the seventh Gushue put a perfect draw to the edge of the button to sit two and when Jacobs flashed on his in-off attempt, Newfoundland-Labrador had a steal of two and a 5-4 lead.

“It was kind of framed. I liked it, it suited my eye and that’s all that matters when you have to play a shot like that,” said Jacobs of his decision to play the risky in-off. “I think we took a little too much broom .. it just kind of ran.”

Northern Ontario's Ryan Fry, left, and Brad Jacobs discuss shot options on Friday night. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Northern Ontario’s Ryan Fry, left, and Brad Jacobs discuss shot options on Friday night. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

By now Jacobs, who went into the game shooting 93 per cent for the week, had slipped to an uncharacteristic 77 per cent.

“I don’t really know,” Jacobs replied when asked that changed in the middle ends. “They got some rocks in some good spots and we didn’t. We had a really terrible seventh end. I think (coach) Caleb (Flaxey) said that was our worst end of the Brier. When that happens something bad is bound to happen.”

Jacobs got a single in the eighth and the teams traded singles in the ninth and 10th.

Sunday’s bronze-medal game is at 2:30 p.m. with the championship match at 7:30 p.m.

The winner of the 2016 Tim Hortons Brier not only will represent Canada at the 2016 World Men’s Championship, April 2-10 in Basel, Switzerland, it will also earn berths in the 2016 Home Hardware Canada Cup in Brandon, Man.; the 2017 World Financial Group Continental Cup, presented by Boyd Gaming, in Las Vegas, and the 2017 Tim Hortons Brier in St. John’s.

Additionally, should the Tim Hortons Brier winner earn a medal at the worlds in Switzerland, it will also qualify for the 2017 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings in Ottawa — the event that will decide Canada’s four-player teams for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea

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This story will be posted in French as soon as possible at

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.