Newfoundland/Labrador sailing along at Tim Hortons Brier

If you were looking for a sign of where Brad Gushue’s Newfoundland/Labrador team is at in terms of dealing with stress at the 2016 Tim Hortons Brier, it could be found on Monday afternoon at TD Place.


hrough six ends, the St. John’s team — vice-skip Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant, lead Geoff Walker and coach Jules Owchar — hadn’t had a sniff at the lead against Saskatchewan’s Steve Laycock.

But, finally, a crack in the seventh — Newfoundland/Labrador exploded for three and sailed in with a 7-5 win.

Tuesday morning, it was a return to the efficient form — a 7-4 victory over New Brunswick’s Mike Kennedy (1-4; Grand Falls) that improved Newfoundland/Labrador’s record to 4-1, tied with idle Kevin Koe of Alberta for second place behind pace-setting Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs (5-0; Sault Ste. Marie).

But it was Monday afternoon’s gritty win over Saskatchewan that was still on the mind of Nichols.

“There was no real panic,” said Nichols. “We knew we had to start playing better and making a few more shots. Maybe four or five years ago, we would have pushed the panic button a little quicker. But I think we did a really good job yesterday of handling the situation and I think that’s what we’ve been able to do the last couple years. We’re much more patient.”

The win kept the Gushue crew in contention for a valuable berth in Friday night’s Page playoff 1-2 game — no easy feat in this stacked Tim Hortons Brier field.

“It’s the goal at the start of the week to get to as many wins as you can before you start losing,” said Nichols. “You want to get to six or seven as fast as you can, and then hopefully reel off a few more at the end to get you into a good spot going into the playoffs.

“We have a good handle on the ice, and Brad’s calling a good game. We’ve been playing pretty well, and that usually means good things at the end.”

Quebec's Jean-Michael Ménard celebrates his win on Tuesday. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Quebec’s Jean-Michael Ménard celebrates his win on Tuesday. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Ice conditions have been a subject of discussion with the rapidly changing weather in Ottawa, but Chief Ice Technician Dave Merklinger has done a marvellous job in keeping the ice in tip-top shape, said Nichols.

“The ice is great;if it stays like this the rest of the week, you’re not going to hear many people complain,” said Nichols, before adding with a laugh: “Usually the guys who are complaining are the guys who are losing.”

In the other Tuesday morning games, Manitoba’s Mike McEwen (3-2; Winnipeg) needed an extra end to beat Jamie Koe of the Northwest Territories (0-5; Yellowknife) 5-4; Northern Ontario kept its win streak alive with a 6-2 win over P.E.I.’s Adam Casey (1-5; Charlottetown/Summerside); and Quebec’s Jean-Michel Ménard (2-3; St-Romuald) made a wonderful triple-takeout with his final shot of the game to score a winning deuce for a 6-5 triumph over B.C.’s Jim Cotter (2-3; Vernon/Kelowna).

Alberta (4-1; Calgary), Team Canada’s Pat Simmons (3-2; Calgary), Ontario’s Glenn Howard (3-2; Toronto) and Saskatchewan’s Steve Laycock (2-3; Saskatoon) all had byes on Tuesday morning.

Draws continue Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. (all times Eastern).

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TSN (RDS2 in French), the exclusive television network for Curling Canada’s Season of Champions, will provide complete coverage of the 2016 Tim Hortons Brier.