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Manitoba claims first place in Tim Hortons Brier round robin

Mike McEwen of Manitoba and Brad Gushue of Newfoundland/Labrador won their final round-robin games Friday, setting up a head-to-head clash in tonight’s Page 1-2 playoff game at the Tim Hortons Brier.

Both teams finished with 9-2 records and Manitoba nailed down first place after beating Newfoundland/Labrador in the round-robin.

Kevin Koe and Team Canada (Calgary) nipped New Brunswick’s Mike Kennedy (1-10; Fredericton) 7-6 to finish third at 8-3. Brad Jacobs of Northern Ontario (Sault Ste. Marie) also finished 8-3 and will play Canada in the Page 3-4 game Saturday at 3 p.m. NST.

Newfoundland/Labrador skip Brad Gushue certainly earned a hug with his round-robin performance in the 2017 Tim Hortons Brier. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

McEwen and his Winnipeg team of vice-skip B.J. Neufeld, second Matt Wozniak, lead Denni Neufeld and coach Chris Neufeld beat Jean-Michel Ménard of Quebec (7-4; Lévis) 5-2.

That means the Manitobans have the hammer when they play Gushue and his St. John’s crew of third Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant, lead Geoff Walker and coach Jules Owchar at 8 p.m. NST Friday.

“Hammer is a big advantage so that’s tremendous,” said McEwen, who lost the bronze-medal game to Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs last year in Ottawa. “We were able to finish the week like we started. Our last three outings were really good.”

Against Quebec, Manitoba exhibited the same patience it has all week. Manitoba gave up a deuce to fall behind 2-1 in the fourth but got one back in the sixth and then stole singles in the seventh, eighth and ninth.

“We had to have some patience,” said McEwen. “The Quebec boys made some really good shots and had us scrambling a bit the first half. But we stayed patient, made sure we didn’t give up any steals. We were able to make them throw some finite shots late in the game and he missed by just tiny bits. That was the difference in us having that lead coming home versus neck and neck.”

It was a frustrating morning for Quebec’s Jean-Michel Ménard. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Newfoundland/Labrador, meanwhile,  stole one in five and scored two in seven to beat Jamie Murphy of Nova Scotia (4-7; Halifax.) 6-3 to clinch second place.

Defending champion Koe and Team Canada stole two in the eight to keep alive their hopes for a repeat with their win over New Brunswick.

“A big relief to get a steal in eight and into the playoffs without a tiebreaker,” said Kennedy. “Kevin made a great soft-weight in-off to sit four. He misses that we probably miss the game. All the credit to him, he’s made big shots all week when we needed.”

Koe is looking forward to the game against Jacobs.

“They’re one of our favourite teams to play, they’re a great team to play against. We’ve had some battles with them, going back to the Brier semi last year and I’m sure tomorrow will be another one.”

Kevin Koe is taking aim at back-to-back Tim Hortons Brier gold medals. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

In the other game, Glenn Howard of Ontario (4-7; Etobicoke) beat Jamie Koe of Northwest Territories (1-10; Yellowknife).

The final standings show John Morris of British Columbia (Vernon-Kelowna) tied with Quebec at 7-4 followed by Adam Casey of Saskatchewan (Regina) at 5-6, Nova Scotia and Ontario at 4-7, Brendan Bottcher of Alberta (Edmonton) at 3-8 and New Brunswick and the Territories at 1-10.

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.