Northern Ontario, Ontario take best Pool B records into Championship Pool

REGINA – Advantage Ontario. Doesn’t matter which one. Northern Ontario and Ontario take 6-1 records into the 2018 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by Mosaic, Championship Pool after wins in the final round of Pool B round-robin play Wednesday afternoon. None of the eight teams that will qualify for the Championship Pool Thursday and Friday will go in undefeated. Northern Ontario (Sault Ste. Marie), skipped by Brad Jacobs, downed Manitoba’s Reid Carruthers (West St. Paul), 6-3. Ontario (Toronto), skipped by John Epping, defeated Steve Laycock of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon) 8-4. The turning point for Jacobs came in the fourth end when it was tied 2-2 and Carruthers was heavy on his draw for one allowing the steal of two. “We were able to kind of coast after that. We’re happy to be at six wins and see how this criss-cross works against teams in the other pool,” said Jacobs, whose team will be considered the top seed from Pool B. “From what I can tell with our team right now, everybody’s real comfortable with the ice, with the rocks, we’re making lots of shots. It bodes well going into this next couple of games.” Jacobs, third Ryan Fry, second E.J. Harnden, lead Ryan Harnden, alternate Tanner Horgan and coach Caleb Flaxey are the 2013 Tim Hortons Brier champion and 2014 Olympic gold medallists. “I really can’t put into words how hungry this team is to win this thing,” said Jacobs. “It’s a phenomenal feeling winning the Brier. We’ve won it before, winning it five years ago, definitely one of the highlights of our careers. We want nothing more to win this thing again and get our name back on the Tankard. We’re going to fight hard, we’re going to battle, and if it’s our week, great. If not it’s all good.” Ontario’s outcome turned in the seventh when Epping had two buried around the button and Saskatchewan last rock thrower Matt Dunstone’s attempted in-off didn’t work allowing Ontario to steal a pair and take a 4-2 lead. But in the next end, Epping was heavy on his last draw, allowing Dunstone to draw for two and a 4-4 tie. Ontario, however, came through in the ninth by scoring four, disappointing the pro-Saskatchewan crowd at the Brandt Centre. “We played quite well today. We had to be. I thought (Laycock) played exceptionally and (fourth rock thrower) Matt (Dunstone) made some huge shots early to take control,” said Epping, whose only loss came to Jacobs in their first game. “I’ll take 6-1. It puts us in great shape. As I’ve said from the start, I think three losses is the number just to be on the safe side. “You know what, we’ll probably have to talk and regroup a bit because there’s definitely some relief, right? We just got out of our pool, and we’re 6-1, and that was a real, tough game out there today. So we’ll probably regroup, have a couple of beverages and get ready for a fun couple of days.” Epping is playing in his first Tim Hortons Brier despite appearing in three Olympic trials and five Home Hardware Canada Cups as well as numerous World Curling Tour finals.

Ontario skip John Epping watches his shot, with Saskatchewan’s Kirk Muyres looking over his shoulder. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

“I feel real comfortable, I’m used to the atmosphere. That was a little unusual playing Saskatchewan today. That was a lot of fun. They’re such a knowledgable, respectful crowd,” said Epping, who plays with third Mat Camm, second Pat Janssen, lead Tim March and coach Jim Wilson. Despite the losses, Manitoba (5-2) and Saskatchewan (4-3) will both advance to the Championship Pool round robin against the top four teams from Pool A, which completes its play tonight. In other Pool B action, Mike Fournier of Quebec (Dollard-des-Ormeaux) needed an extra-end measurement to get a steal and edge James Grattan of New Brunswick (Oromocto) 7-6. Quebec finishes the pool 3-4 while New Brunswick was 2-5. Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown), skipped by Eddie MacKenzie (2-5), beat Nunavut (Iquluit), skipped by David St. Louis (0-7), 14-2. Quebec, New Brunswick, P.E.I. and Nunavut will play the corresponding teams in the Pool A standings in a draw Friday morning to determine final standings, Canadian Team Ranking System points and prize payouts The 2018 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by Mosaic, continues with a draw today at 7 p.m. (all times CST).

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