Team Gushue clinches playoff spot at Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings

OTTAWA — World men’s champ Brad Gushue of St. John’s finds himself oh-so-close to a coveted return trip to the Winter Olympic Games.

Gushue, third Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant, lead Geoff Walker, alternate Tom Sallows and coach Jules Owchar, scored deuces in the first and sixth ends and three in the eighth to beat Steve Laycock (2-5) of Saskatoon Thursday night at the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings.

With the victory, Team Gushue, 5-2, is headed to Saturday’s men’s semifinal, having locked up second place in the nine-team round-robin standings.

It was a third straight win for Gushue, the 2006 Winter Olympics gold-medallist, as his team has found its game after an inconsistent start to the tournament.

“It feels pretty good, especially after the start of the week,” said Gushue. “It’s good positioning. We’ve been playing better and better and tonight was our best game by far. We’re feeling good going into the playoffs. Our confidence is growing going into what is going to be two very tough games. Seeing the way Mark is throwing and the way Brett in throwing has given me a lot of confidence in putting the broom in the right spot.”

Gushue’s win reduced the potential champions on the men’s side to five teams: Kevin Koe (7-0) of Calgary, who will finish first and go directly to Sunday’s 7 p.m. (all times Eastern) final, Gushue (5-2), McEwen (4-3), Reid Carruthers of Saskatoon (4-3) and Brendan Bottcher (3-3) of Edmonton.

In the other late men’s game, Brad Jacobs (3-4) of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., grabbed an early 4-1 lead and rolled past Mike McEwen (4-3) and his Winnipeg foursome that admittedly “went through the motions” the last half of the game.

In women’s action, the reigning world women’s champ, Ottawa’s Rachel Homan, followed the same path to victory as Gushue, building an early lead and cruising to a victory that locked up no worse than a playoff tiebreaker berth.

Homan, third Emma Miskew, second Joanne Courtney, lead Lisa Weagle, alternate Cheryl Kreviazuk and coach Adam Kingsbury scored three in the third end and went on to beat Val Sweeting (3-4) of Edmonton 7-5 for their sixth straight win.

It’s high-pressure curling, but Rachel Homan had reason to smile on Thursday night. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

“We’ve had to make big shots for the wins, we had to battle back, we’ve had to win a lot of different ways,” Homan said of her hot streak that improved their record to 6-1. “We’re getting better every game.”

Homan punched out a Sweeting counter through a narrow port between two of her own stones to get her three and then stole one in four to take control.

“It’s awesome when you can take a three,” she said. “It’s a long game, a long grind and the better team will usually come out. It’s a mental battle out there because it’s a long game.”

The results leave four women’s teams still in the hunt for the championship: Chelsey Carey (6-0) of Calgary, Homan (6-1), defending champion Jennifer Jones (5-2) of Winnipeg and Krista McCarville (4-2) of Thunder Bay, Ont.

Carey will finish first, and earn a bye to Sunday’s 2 p.m. final, with a victory in either of her final two games. Team Homan will play Team Jones in Friday night’s final draw to decide another place in the playoffs. In the other women’s game, Casey Scheidegger (3-4) of Lethbridge, Alta., stole one in the 10th to slide past Michelle Englot (2-5) of Winnipeg. The 2017 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings continues with Friday’s final three round-robin draws: at 9 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Live scoring, standings and statistics for the 2017 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings are available at TSN/TSN2 and RDS2 will provide complete coverage of the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings. CLICK HERE for the complete schedule For ticket information for the 2017 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings, CLICK HERE. This story will be posted in French as soon as possible at