Manitoba wins Tim Hortons Brier bronze medal

They were two hurting teams after bitter losses one day earlier, but Manitoba and Northern Ontario put on a superb performance in the Tim Hortons Brier bronze-medal game Sunday. Both teams shot a combined 93 per cent, made numerous great shots and took the game into an extra end before Mike McEwen made the final punchout of a Northern Ontario counter to give Manitoba 7-6 win. “We wanted to come out and have our best game of the week and I think we were pretty close to that,” said Manitoba third B.J. Neufeld. “It ended up being a really great game, little bit back and forth, well played and it’s good to come out on top. We wanted to leave on a winning note.”

The Harnden Boys, Ryan, left, and E.J. were hard at work on Sunday during the bronze-medal game. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

McEwen, Neufeld, second Matt Wozniak, lead Denni Neufeld and coach Chris Neufeld, who curl out of the Fort Rouge club in Winnipeg, lost an extra-end heartbreaker to Team Canada in Saturday’s semifinal. “It was extremely difficult last night thinking about playing this game,” said McEwen, the second-team all-star skip here. “But we were playing for points, for something in the future, for the experience and putting on a good show.” Manitoba’s showing leapfrogged them ahead of a couple of teams in the Canadian Team Ranking System points standing and put them in a good position to earn a spot in the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings, Dec. 2-10 in Ottawa, where Canada’s four-player teams for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, will be decided. “So we were very aware of what was on the line today,” said McEwen. “Last night’s game was huge and we (gave) away some points so we didn’t want to do that again. “As much as we were hurting pretty bad and weren’t playing for the colour of medal we wanted we still gave it our all.” Both teams did that. Jacobs, vice-skip Ryan Fry, second E.J. Harnden, lead Ryan Harnden, alternate Lee Toner and coach Caleb Flaxey had a chance to win in the 10th before McEwen made a difficult angle double takeout to prevent the Sault Ste. Marie team from getting a deuce and the victory. That victory was nailed down when Jacobs’ final-stone draw just curled at the end, leaving enough exposed to give McEwen an open hit. “You just know that once you get into the playoffs there is virtually no room for error at all. If you do make errors you lose, plain and simple,” said Jacobs as he held his young daughter Camille. “It just wasn’t meant to be for us this week. “But it’s great to have the family here. Too bad we weren’t able to win that last game, but it’s nice to have the family here and nice to hold her after the game. It kind of washes everything away.”

Kate Barratt, middle, accepts the Curling Canada Volunteer of the Year award from Peter Inch, Chair of Curling Canada’s Board of Governors, left, and Curling Canada governor Lena West during Sunday’s bronze-medal game. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

The game also helped cleanse the memory of Northern Ontario’s loss to Team Canada in the Page 3-4 game. Both teams were chatting, sometimes even laughing on the ice while they were trading shot for shot. “We wanted to put on a great show for the fans … you want to make shots and we did the best we could,” said Jacobs. “Both teams, we’re buddies off the ice and in a game like that you can even be buddies on the ice. Both teams were having a few laughs. It lets the fans see another side of us as competitors.” “Our job as part of the competing teams is to put on a show and hopefully we did that,” added Fry after he and other players gave away their brooms to fans in Mile One Centre. “You have to be precise and make a lot of shots. Your mistakes have to be very, very small to get to the top of this.” Brad Gushue of Newfoundland and Labrador (St. John’s) will try to win his first Brier title when he plays defending champion Kevin Koe and Team Canada in the final at 8 p.m. 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.