Team Canada closes in on Tim Hortons Brier playoff berth

ST. JOHN’S — The champs are in familiar territory at the 2017 Tim Hortons Brier. Kevin Koe’s Team Canada rink from Calgary ran its record to 6-2 and put itself in a solid position for a playoff berth with an 8-6 win over the Northwest Territories on Wednesday night at Mile One Centre in the always interesting Battle of the Koe Brothers. Koe, third Marc Kennedy, second Brent Laing, lead Ben Hebert, alternate Scott Pfeifer and coach John Dunn, scored three in the first and deuces in the third and fifth en route to an 8-6 win over his younger brother Jamie and his Yellowknife team — a game played on the birthday of their father Fred, who was in attendance Wednesday. Canada had control, up 7-3 after seven ends, but gave up a deuce to Northwest Territories (1-7) in eight and a steal in nine.

The Koe brothers, Jamie, top, and Kevin, went head to head on Wednesday night, with Kevin coming out on top. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

“In nine we made a mistake on Kev’s last one,” Kennedy said of Koe’s shot in nine that gave away an extra point and extended the game to a 10th end. “Probably should peel it out, come home up three. We got a little greedy, tried to put it away, probably tired. And gave them a steal.” But it ended up a win just the same, and now Team Canada has destiny in its own hands, with games on Thursday against first-place Mike McEwen of Manitoba (7-1; Winnipeg) and the home team, Newfoundland/Labrador’s Brad Gushue (6-2; St. John’s). Wins in both of those games (at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. respectively; all times NST) would put Canada in Friday’s Page 1-2 playoff game. “We just wanted to give ourselves the opportunity (Thursday) and we did,” said Kennedy. “A big day. Now we have to get rest and get ready. It’ll be fun. The place will be rocking all day. We’ll try to put our best together and try to win one out of the two.” Meanwhile, it wasn’t always pretty, but McEwen and his Manitoba foursome posted a pair of victories Wednesday to retain their position atop the standings. McEwen, vice- skip B.J. Neufeld, second Matt Wozniak, lead Denni Neufeld and coach Chris Neufeld, had to rally for a win in the afternoon against Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs, but had an easier time of it in the evening draw where they beat Jamie Murphy of Nova Scotia (2-6; Halifax) 9-3. “We tried to start this game a little more simple, to not have so much pressure on us early in the game,” McEwen said after his team jumped into a 3-1 lead after three ends. “I know personally I’ve been starting to crack a little bit. I haven’t been the nicest skip out there. Feels like we’ve been 10 days and it’s only been five. There’s a ton of pressure and we’ve been playing from behind in quite a few situations It was nice to play in the lead again.”

Manitoba’s Mike McEwen continues to lead the way at the 2017 Tim Hortons Brier. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Gushue, with third Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant, lead Geoff Walker and coach Jules Owchar, cracked a three-ender in the fourth and went on to beat Jean-Michel Ménard of Quebec (5-3; Lévis) 7-3 to stay in the conversation for a Page 1-2 playoff berth. In the other evening-shift game, Ontario’s Glenn Howard (3-5; Etobicoke) was an 8-6 winner over New Brunswick’s Mike Kennedy (1-7; Fredericton). Northern Ontario (6-3; Sault Ste. Marie), John Morris of British Columbia (5-4; Vernon-Kelowna), Adam Casey of Saskatchewan (5-4; Regina) and Brendan Bottcher of Alberta (3-6; Edmonton) had the byes. Today’s draws go at 10 a.m., 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. (all times NST). For ticket and other event information, For the complete schedule, go to This story will be posted in French as soon as possible at 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.