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Koe’s Team Canada successful in opening defence of Tim Hortons Brier title

ST. JOHN’S – It was a struggle but Kevin Koe and Team Canada served notice Saturday evening that they will not easily surrender their Tim Hortons Brier championship.

The defending champions from Calgary used deuces in the third, seventh and ninth ends to subdue a stubborn veteran Quebec team from Lévis led by skip Jean-Michel Ménard 7-5.

“We played solid but they found ways to keep the score close,” a relaxed Koe said afterwards. “I thought we outplayed them, but they made the shots they had to. In the end we made the shots we had to.”

The teams traded points through eight ends and it took three tough but successful shots by third Marc Kennedy and second Brent Laing and then a perfectly weighted draw to the button by Koe to give Canada two in the ninth.

“We had a couple chances to put a little more heat on them,” added Koe, whose team is rounded out by lead Ben Hebert, alternate Scott Pfeifer and coach John Dunn. “They got a couple deuces on us that we could maybe got out of but it felt like we were playing well. I wasn’t worried although it was close at the end.”

It took an excellent double takeout with his final stone for Koe to eliminate Quebec’s last hope in the 10th.

New Brunswick skip Mike Kennedy checks out a shot during his team’s win over the Northwest Territories. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

“Kevin made a great shot with his last one,” said Ménard. “If not I have a draw for two to tie and in extra end who knows what can happen.

“It took two teams five ends to figure out the ice and get comfortable,” he continued. “The final ends I think it was really good curling so it looks good for the rest of the week. Just half shots here and there and against that kind of team you can’t make those mistakes.”

Jamie Murphy of Nova Scotia (Halifax), who got into the main draw by winning the pre-qualifying final in the afternoon, scored three in the ninth end and then made a clutch draw to the button in the 11th end to beat veteran Glenn Howard of Ontario (Etobicoke) 6-5.

“I knew I threw it pretty close out of my hand and then the guys just swept it perfect all the way,” an exhausted Murphy said of his final shot. “That was a great day and a great way to finish. We were really scratching early in that game … our objective was just to make it go 10 ends. Then in the ninth we got a couple of breaks and we ended getting that three.”

Mike Kennedy of New Brunswick got off to a winning start with a 6-5 victory over Jamie Koe of the Northwest Territories (Yellowknife).

After the first day’s two draws Canada, Newfoundland-Labrador, Northern Ontario, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are 1-0 while the remaining six teams are 0-1.

Today’s draws are at 10 a.m., 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. (all times NST).

For ticket and other event information, http://www.curling.ca/2017brier/

For the complete schedule, go to http://www.curling.ca/2017brier/draw/

This story will be posted in French as soon as possible at http://www.curling.ca/2017brier/?lang=fr

TSN (RDS2 in French), the exclusive television network for Curling Canada’s Season of Champions, will provide complete coverage of the 2017 Tim Hortons Brier.