OTTAWA — It’s down to the final four at the 2016 Tim Hortons Brier.
Friday morning’s final draw of round-robin play was meaningless in terms of determining playoff pairings, but it was important for playoff teams wanting to generate some momentum going into the medal round.
And no one will have more momentum than the Northern Ontario foursome skipped by 2013 Tim Hortons Brier and 2014 Olympic champ Brad Jacobs.
Jacobs, third Ryan Fry, second E.J. Harnden, lead Ryan Harnden, alternate Lee Toner and coach Caleb Flaxey will carry an unblemished 11-0 record into Friday night’s Page playoff 1-2 game against Newfoundland/Labrador’s Brad Gushue (9-2; St. John’s). They’re bidding to become the first team to win the Tim Hortons Brier unbeaten since Alberta’s Kevin Martin did it back-to-back in 2008 and 2009.
The Northern Ontario crew finished off the round robin with a tight 4-2 win over Newfoundland/Labrador, a victory that assured last-rock advantage in the first end and choice of rock colour for the 1-2 game on Friday night (7:30 p.m., all times Eastern)
“I think it was a good game for both teams; there were a lot of shots made,” said E.J. Harnden. “It wasn’t indicative of the score. It was low-scoring game, but a lot of low-percentage (difficult) shots that were made to generate those blanks. It was a good game for both sides, and it conserved a little bit of energy, which was nice for both teams as well. I don’t expect anything different tonight, with both teams coming out firing again.”
The winner of the Page 1-2 game will go straight to Sunday’s gold-medal game at 7:30 p.m.; the loser will drop to Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. semifinal against the winner of the Page 3-4 game, set for Saturday at 2:30 p.m. between Manitoba’s Mike McEwen (8-3; Winnipeg) and Alberta’s Kevin Koe (8-3; Calgary).
Alberta had the bye on Friday morning, while Manitoba sailed to an 8-3 win over P.E.I.’s Adam Casey (2-9; Charlottetown/Summerside).
“It was kind of nice; we tried to play more aggressive and make some really difficult shots the best we could out there,” said McEwen. “There’s some wear and tear on the mind and body. So even though we’re not playing in the 1-2 game tonight, a little rest will probably be beneficial for us.”
Koe has defeated McEwen in their last two meetings — Monday night in round-robin play and in the Home Hardware Canada Cup final in December in Grande Prairie. McEwen defeated Koe in round-robin play in Grande Prairie on the strength of a 98 per cent shooting game.
“It’s going to take one of our best games of the week (to beat Alberta),” said McEwen. “We’ve had some really good tilts with them, all season, when guys are in the high 90s, and it’s just one shot that makes or breaks the team. I’m hoping for that type of game on Saturday. Both teams will have to be at their best.”
The Page 3-4 loser and semifinal loser will play for the bronze medal Sunday at 2:30 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.
In the other Draw 17 games to close out the round robin, B.C.’s Jim Cotter (3-8; Vernon/Kelowna) dumped New Brunswick’s Mike Kennedy (3-8; Grand Falls); and Jamie Koe of the Northwest Territories (3-8; Yellowknife) toppled Jean-Michel Ménard of Quebec (4-7; St-Romuald) 8-6.
As the 12th-place finisher, Prince Edward Island will be part of the pre-qualifying round of the 2017 Tim Hortons Brier in St. John’s, along with Nova Scotia, the Yukon and Nunavut.
Besides Alberta, Team Canada’s Pat Simmons (6-5; Calgary), Saskatchewan’s Steve Laycock (5-6; Saskatoon) and Ontario’s Glenn Howard (4-7; Etobicoke) had byes on Thursday morning.
For ticket and other event information, visit 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.