How often do they notch six-enders at the Brier?
That’s a count of six in one end? How about seven times, since the Brier went to a playoff format in 1980. Oh, and Prince Edward Island stole one seven-ender during that span, too.
But nobody remembers a winless team like Ian Fitzner-LeBlanc’s Nova Scotians hammering Alberta with a big six points. It transpired during the 10th draw of the 81st Canadian championship at the Metro Centre on Tuesday afternoon.
Going in, Alberta was 4-and-1, homestanding Nova Scotia was 0-and-5. Strangely thereafter, Fitzner-LeBlanc and his team of Stuart MacLean, Kent Smith and Phil Crowell had to hang on by its fingernails to finally record a wild 13-8 victory in nine ends over Kevin Koe of Edmonton.
“We got up early with some good play,” explained the Nova Scotia skip, “took a 5-0 lead and they got a deuce back won a great shot by Koe. So we just decided we wanted to keep the zeroes off the board and find away to score. He was very aggressive, trying to get back into it, Stuart and I made doubles and he rubbed on his last one. So it was a half-rock in for six.”
Then what happened? Did complacency set in?
“I wouldn’t like to think so but it certainly may have appeared that way,” said Fitzner-LeBlanc. “We were focused, I think. They played a solid second half and when you’re playing one of the top teams in the world, which is what they are, it’s tough to match them shot-for-shot. But a win’s a win, the scoreboard doesn’t take pictures, and we’re happy.”
Prince Edward Island’s Peter Gallant posted the last six-ender recorded at the Brier, clubbing Nova Scotia’s Brian Rafuse 13-3 in 2008 at Winnipeg.
There have been six other six-enders scored since 1980 with Randy Ferbey of Alberta (2004), Wayne Middaugh of Ontario (2001), Russ Howard of Ontario (1987), Larry Pineau of Northern Ontario (1987), Al Delmage of The Territories (1987) and Ed Lukowich of Alberta (1984) posting the big ends.
Current Island lead Andrew Robinson skipped P.E.I. to the only seven-ender in recent Brier history, and a steal of seven to boot, at Saskatoon in 2000. Robinson’s victim was Shawn Adams of Nova Scotia.
“We were down so we had to gamble and we didn’t make our shots,” explained Koe”You can’t play just to keep the score close, you try to get back into it and it didn’t go our way. You get down three in the first end, it’s tough to come back against anyone.”
In other Tuesday afternoon games, frontrunner Glenn Howard of Ontario stretched his winning streak to seven games with a 9-5 victory over fading Darrell McKee of Saskatchewan (2-5) while Brad Gushue of Newfoundland/Labrador broke open a tight-fit with four in the eighth end and defeated Jeff Richard of British Columbia (2-4) by 7-5.
With the win, Gushue pulled even with idle Manitoba at 5-and-1. Alberta’s loss dropped the Koe team to 4-and-2, a half-game behind Serge Reid’s surprise Quebec entry, which won its fifth game against two losses with an 8-7 extra-end win over Rod MacDonald of Prince Edward Island.
In today’s 11th draw at 7:30 p.m., Alberta collides with Jeff Stoughton of Manitoba in the feature match. Elsewhere, Newfoundland/Labrador takes on New Brunswick, Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs (4-and-2) tackles B.C. and Nova Scotia goes against the winless Territories team that will be without skip Jamie Koe, who will write a chartered accountant’s exam at St. Mary’s University.