BRANDON, Man. – Advantage Kevin Koe and Brad Gushue.
The two most recent winners of the Tom Hortons Brier, presented by AGI, scored victories Friday evening at Westoba Place to secure hammer for their teams in Saturday’s Page playoff games.
Koe, a three-time Tim Hortons Brier winner — his last win coming in 2016 — scored two in the final end to lead Team Alberta (11-0, Calgary) past Brad Jacobs and Team Northern Ontario (9-2, Sault Ste. Marie) 7-5.
Gushue and Team Canada (9-2, St. John’s N.L.), seeking a third straight championship, scored three in the seventh end to beat Brendan Bottcher and Team Wild Card (8-3, Edmonton) 8-5.
By winning, Koe and Gushue have hammer to begin their games in the playoffs, against the same rivals they played Friday.
“Big win,” said Koe, who made a last-rock hit-and stick for the win. “It’s always a reassuring feeling to have hammer, as long as you use it even a one-point lead against these good teams matters. We’re pretty familiar with them … they might take a different strategy (Saturday) but we just have to come out and play our game.”
Koe, with third B.J. Neufeld, second Colton Flasch, lead Ben Hebert, alternate Ted Appelman and coach John Dunn, scored three in the fourth end and deuces in the eight and 10th ends for the win.
Jacobs, who had cruised to eight straight wins with the hammer to begin games before losing two of his last three, shook off the loss and suggested the hammer isn’t that big a deal.
“The hammer, you know what, quite frankly in five-rock (Free Guard Zone) rule I think it means almost nothing. We’re looking forward to playing those guys tomorrow, getting two cracks, worse case, to make the final.”
Koe and Jacobs play a rematch in the Page 1-2 game with the winner advancing to Sunday’s final and the loser getting a second shot in Sunday’s semifinal against the winner of the Page 3-4 game
That game will see Gushue playing Bottcher again.
“Getting hammer and getting rocks is a big advantage,” said Gushue. “I think your advantage goes up about 20 per cent, your likelihood of winning. So it was important for us to come out and play well tonight and … we did that, we played well.”
Gushue, third Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant, lead Geoff Walker, alternate Tom Sallows and coach Jules Owchar, scored two in the third end, stole two in the fourth and got the three in seven for their victory.
In the two other games, Mike McEwen and Team Manitoba (6-5, West St. Paul) beat Scott McDonald and Team Ontario (6-5, Kingston) 8-4, and Kirk Muyres and Team Saskatchewan (5-6, Saskatoon) nipped Jim Cotter and Team British Columbia (4-7, Vernon) 6-5.
The 2019 Tim Hortons Brier continues Saturday with the Page 3-4 game at 2 p.m. and the 1-2 game at 7 p.m. (all times CST).
Live scoring, standings and statistics for the 2019 Tim Hortons Brier are available at www.curling.ca/scoreboard/
TSN and RDS2 (streamed on ESPN3 in the United States) will provide complete coverage of the 2019 Tim Hortons Brier. CLICK HERE for the complete schedule.
For ticket information for the 2019 Tim Hortons Brier, go to www.curling.ca/2019brier/tickets.
This story will be available in French as soon as possible at www.curling.ca/2019brier/?lang=fr