Home team secures Page 1-2 berth at Tim Hortons Brier

ST. JOHN’S — Brad Gushue is right where the rowdy crowd in Mile One Arena Thursday night wants him – in the Page playoff 1-2 game Friday night at the Tim Horton Brier. Gushue and his St. John’s team rallied from a 3-0 first-end deficit to score an exciting and emotional 7-6 extra-end win over defending champion Kevin Koe and Team Canada. The victory means that regardless of the 16 potential scenarios (based on wins and losses in each of the four sheets) of Friday’s final round-robin draw, Gushue, vice-skip Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant, lead Geoff Walker and coach Jules Owchar will be playing in Friday’s 8 p.m. (all times NST) Page 1-2 game for a berth directly into Sunday’s 8 p.m. gold-medal final.

Brad Jacobs and his Northern Ontario team are still in the playoff hunt at the Tim Hortons Brier. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

“I always felt I would be here,” Gushue, who drew to the back of the button looking at two Team Canada counters in the four-foot for the win in the 11th end, said of advancing past the round robin with his Newfoundland/Labrador champs. “It’s a good character game. You need a win like in a week like this.” The win left Newfoundland/Labrador and Manitoba’s Mike McEwen (Winnipeg) tied for top spot in the round-robin standings with 8-2 records. Manitoba would clinch the other Page 1-2 berth with a win Friday morning against Quebec’s Jean-Michel Ménard (7-3; Lévis), but could also drop into a tiebreaker depending on other game results and the last-shot draw rankings. Koe, third Marc Kennedy, second Brent Laing, lead Ben Hebert, alternate Scott Pfeifer and coach John Dunn, opened with three in the first but Newfoundland/Labrador was patient and it paid off. “Kevin and his team played eight perfect shots (in the first end), we had a couple of half shots and all of a sudden it was three,” said Gushue. “If you’re going to give up a three, that’s the time to do. “I stressed to the guys in the second end, lets be patient, we don’t want to force it. A blank in second wasn’t going to hurt us, we just wanted to stay alive.” They got two back in the second and a pivotal steal of one in the sixth when Koe was wide trying to bump one of his stones. “We took a bit of a chance in six to try to put them away,” said Koe. “I just missed one, Brad made a good shot…  if he misses it’s maybe game over, but credit to him he made it. “It’s a big game but it’s still round robin. We win tomorrow we’re in the playoffs so that’s what we’ll focus on now.” McEwen, vice-skip B.J. Neufeld, second Matt Wozniak, lead Denni Neufeld and coach Chris Neufeld scored four in the seventh end to beat Glenn Howard of Ontario (3-7; Etobicoke). “Just having an opportunity tomorrow morning to get into the 1-2 game is tremendous, couldn’t ask for anything more than that,” McEwen said afterwards. “It’s a long week and we’ve started to climb up again, as far as our performance, so I feel real positive going into Friday.” When Northern Ontario nipped Alberta it left three teams with three losses – Canada, Northern Ontario and Quebec, with all still in the playoff picture. Brad Jacobs and Northern Ontario went into the night with three losses and had to win to remain alive. They did that by scoring deuces in the third, sixth and ninth ends to beat Brendan Bottcher of Alberta (3-8; Edmonton) 6-5. John Morris of British Columbia (7-4; Vernon-Kelowna) beat Adam Casey of Saskatchewan (5-6; Regina) 7-6 in the other game. Quebec, Nova Scotia’s Jamie Murphy (4-6; Halifax), New Brunswick’s Mike Kennedy (1-9; Fredericton) and Jamie Koe of the Northwest Territories (1-9; Yellowknife) all had byes. The final round-robin draw is Friday at 10 a.m. NST The 1-2 Page playoff game will be played Friday at 8 pm. NST. For ticket and other event information, https://www.curling.ca/2017brier/ For the complete schedule, go to https://www.curling.ca/2017brier/draw/ This story will be posted in French as soon as possible at https://www.curling.ca/2017brier/?lang=fr 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.