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Four teams off to Championship Pool at Tim Hortons Brier

REGINA – The weather outside the Brandt Centre cleared up and so did the Pool B playoff picture at the 2018 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by Mosaic.

As a result of play Tuesday night, Ontario (5-1), Northern Ontario (5-1), Manitoba (5-1) and Saskatchewan (4-2) have all advanced to the Championship Pool Thursday and Friday, even though there’s one draw left to go in Pool B.

The team on the biggest roll is Ontario (Toronto). Since losing their opener to Northern Ontario on Saturday, skip John Epping, third Mat Camm, second Pat Janssen, lead Tim March and coach Jim Wilson have reeled off five consecutive wins. The latest was a surgical 11-4 victory over Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown) skipped by Eddie MacKenzie (1-5).

“We’re kind of finding our groove there. Tonight was a good performance. That was rock solid. We controlled the game, start to finish,” said Epping, who executed a six-rock raise in the fourth end to score three and go in front 6-2. “We’ve got our ‘A’ legs going right now, starting to feel really comfortable out there, feel good and hopefully keep the momentum going.

“We’ve been a little shaky earlier, and just got left off the hook a bit, but tonight was our best performance.”

Northern Ontario (Sault Ste. Marie) rebounded from a morning loss to Saskatchewan with a superb effort to subdue a stubborn, fine-shooting Quebec (Dollard-des-Ormeaux) squad skipped by Mike Fournier 7-3.

Both sides shot 88 per cent, but Northern Ontario skip Brad Jacobs made some fabulous shots to ruin some good setups Quebec (2-4) had going. In the fourth end, Jacobs made a long-range triple takeout to leave Northern Ontario sitting three and forcing Fournier to draw for a single point when he appeared to be set to pick up much more. In the fifth, Jacobs made a big raise takeout where the rocks bounced in a way that allowed him to score three to go ahead 5-2.

Manitoba’s Reid Carruthers (Wast St. Paul) defeated New Brunswick 7-3 to keep pace with the two Ontario teams and drop the team from Oromocto skipped by James Grattan to 2-4.

After losing its first two games, Saskatchewan (Saskatoon) has won four straight. The Steve Laycock-skipped squad defeated winless Nunavut (Iqaluit), skipped by David St. Louis, 10-3.

Nunavut’s Peter Mackey, left, and Wade Kingdon were hard at work on Tuesday night. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

In the final Pool B draw Wednesday (2 p.m.), Ontario will play Saskatchewan and Manitoba will take on Northern Ontario. Although all four teams are in, the results from the Pool B will carry over to the Championship Pool. (Teams will play a round robin against the four teams from the other pool.) While moving on to the next round isn’t at stake, moving on to the weekend Page playoff will be. And with six teams at one loss or less, any defeat could be costly.

Epping will be treating Wednesday’s game like it’s already a Championship Pool game.

“From here on out, we need as many wins as we can. I still believe four losses is going to be tough to get in, and we need to win as many games as we can,” said Epping, who is playing in his first Tim Hortons Brier. “It’s been amazing. This has been an unbelievable experience so far, and I hope to be able experience a lot more.”

At two losses, Wednesday’s game is even more of a must-win for Saskatchewan.

“You just can’t just coast and say you’re in the championship round. You take your losses with you, and realistically if we lose that game tomorrow (against Ontario) we’ve got to run the table on the whole other side of the pool. Definitely a huge game,” said Laycock, who calls the shots while Matt Dunstone throws fourth. “It could be a scenario where only two losses you in, and hopefully three will get you at least a tiebreaker, but in the new format you never know”

The 2018 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by Mosaic, continues with draws Wednesday at 9 a.m., 2 p.m., and 7 p.m. (all times CST).

Live scoring, standings and statistics for the 2018 Tim Hortons Brier are available at www.curling.ca/scoreboard/

TSN and RDS2 (streamed on ESPN3 in the United States) will provide complete coverage of the 2018 Tim Hortons Brier. Go to www.tsn.ca/2017-18-curling-broadcast-schedule-1.593081 for the complete schedule.

For ticket information for the 2018 Tim Hortons Brier, go to www.curling.ca/2018brier/tickets/

This story will be available in French as soon as possible at www.curling.ca/2018brier/?lang=fr