Alberta advances to Brier final against Ontario

Alberta’s Kevin Koe twice scored four points in critical eighth ends Saturday at the Tim Hortons Brier to qualify for tonight’s championship final against Ontario’s Glenn Howard. The game (6 p.m. CT) will be a rematch of the championship final won 6-5 in an extra end by Koe two years ago at the Halifax Metro Centre. Koe, second Carter Rycroft and lead Nolan Thiessen, the same lineup that won the 2010 world title, joined new third Pat Simmons in knocking over Manitoba’s Rob Fowler of Brandon 8-6 in the evening semi-final played before 10,049 fans at the Credit Union Centre.

Team Alberta sweeps hard during the Semi-final of the 2012 Tim Hortons Brier. (Photo: CCA/Michael Burns Photography)

Earlier, Koe defeated his brother, Jamie Koe of the Territories, with another four in the eighth end of the Page Three-Four playoff. The loss, the second in as many playoff nights for the Manitobans, dropped Fowler into this morning’s bronze-medal scuffle (9 a.m.) against the Territories. Howard won his final berth at Fowler’s expense on Friday night. The semi-final may have hinged on a ‘picked’ Manitoba rock in the eighth which led to the Alberta four-spot. “Rob had a bad break with that pick for sure but it looked like we were going to get two in any case for control,” allowed Kevin Koe. “Obviously that was the huge end in the game.”(Continued Below…) Semi-final Photos
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Added Fowler: “I thought we had our best game tonight and we had that rough break in the eighth end. That rock was just about to get to the spot where we’d get the roll in behind cover and it picked (on debris). “It’s a tough way to lose. You go out and play your heart out and play your best game and you’re in a position to win the game and it just evaporates.” Directing Allan Lyburn, Richard Daneault and Derek Samagalski, Fowler executed a precise split raise in the fourth end for a 3-1 lead but Koe bounced back to tie the tilt after six, stealing a point when Fowler left an Alberta stone hanging on an attempted double-kill. In the seventh, Fowler played a crisp draw looking at three enemy counters to regain the lead but, facing three in the eighth, he was unsuccessful trying to bury his last stone and Koe executed the takeout to score the four-ender. Undaunted, Fowler answered with a ninth-end deuce but left an open hit for an Alberta insurance point in the 10th. “It’s been a battle this week, we’ve had to grind out a lot of wins, and overcome some struggles some days so it feels good to win two tough games today,” said Koe. “We’ll hope to get better now. We’ll need our best game, probably, tomorrow.” Koe and his mates remember only too well the excitement-packed Brier finish two years ago that catapulted them to Italy and the world championship. “It’s a great memory for us, probably not so for him (Howard),” said Koe. “It’ll be another great challenge, just like 2010. You know our record against Glenn hasn’t been great but if we can get off to a good start that’ll be key for us. “They’ve been playing great this week. We won’t have to be perfect, they’ll have some misses, too. Our game in the round robin, we let him off the hook and he didn’t have to make shots to beat us, we did it to ourselves. We just have to make him make the tough shots. Nobody’s perfect out there. (Continued below…) httpvh:// “We know we can win it. We know we can beat Glenn in that game. We know we can be down and battle hard and come back. We proved that today. “This was a great team effort. We were down that deuce, then one without, and stayed positive and, like this afternoon in the second half of the game, we played awesome.” The Albertans continued to achieve despite vice-skip Simmons’s struggles with a throat infection and respiratory problems. “He (Simmons) battled hard for the way he’s feeling and I can’t say enough about him,” said Koe. Simmons described his health problems as day-to-day. “I just hope I can slide and I can stand tomorrow,” he said. “It has been a long week.” Simmons, then the Saskatchewan skip, was the victim of a memorable pick in the 2008 Brier at Winnipeg. His last shot picked in the Page One-Two playoff against Kevin Martin of Alberta and deprived Saskatchewan of a berth in the final match. “That pick really changed that end,” Simmons said of the Fowler rock. “I’d never wish that on anybody. That is not what you want to see. If it’s going to happen it’s nice to be on the right side of it every once in a while. But you don’t hope for that for anyone, especially for those guys.” Fowler said he was aiming for gold in his first Brier as a skip. “I’ve won a silver and a bronze here (with Jeff Stoughton) so our goal this week was gold to personally complement that,” he allowed. “But we want to go home with something so we’ll be working real hard to get that bronze. “I thought that tonight, when it meant the most, our team played the best we could. Some times in the game of curling the breaks don’t go your way. “We were in full control. If they get two in the eighth we’re one down playing nine with the hammer. That’s one of the top five teams in the world and we were in a position to beat them so what more can you say?” This season, Howard and Koe have collided seven times, including their Brier round-robin clash (6-3 Howard) earlier in this piece, with Howard winning six of seven. Koe’s only win transpired at Brooks in the November Cactus Pheasant Classic playoffs. Head-to-head over their careers, Howard is 17 wins to Koe’s four, including that 2010 Brier final.