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Team Nova Scotia claims final Tim Hortons Brier Championship Pool spot

REGINA – Jamie Murphy should sleep well knowing he avoided a nightmare scenario that would have kept him up late with an early morning wakeup call.

Murphy’s team from Nova Scotia (Halifax) edged Sean Geall of British Columbia (Kelowna) 7-6 Wednesday night to capture the final berth in the 2018 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by Mosaic, Championship Pool.

The win meant Nova Scotia (4-3) finished fourth in Pool A, joining Alberta (6-1), Team Canada (6-1) and Team Wild Card (5-2) in the Championship Pool, which is a four-game round robin against the top four teams from Pool B.

“That was our first goal coming into the week. We were hoping to be 5-2, but we’ll take that,” said Murphy. “We really just wanted to be in that top pool playing against the top teams, just trying to see what we can do against them.”

If B.C. (2-5) had won, it would have created a three-way tie for fourth at 3-4 in Pool A between both teams and Northwest Territories (Yellowknife). Jamie Koe’s team defeated the Yukon’s Thomas Scoffin (1-6; Whitehorse) 8-2.

Murphy would have had to face the Territories in the first tiebreaker right after the night draw. The winner then would have played B.C. Thursday morning to determine who would advance.

“I don’t think the teams who would have had to play tonight would have got through, to be honest,” said Murphy. “We would have had no rest, and rest is huge. So it’s nice to be able to get some rest and be able to play again tomorrow.”

Edmonton’s Brendan Bottcher, who lost his opening game of the Tim Hortons Brier to Nova Scotia last Saturday, stole eight points in defeating Mike McEwen’s Wild Card team from Winnipeg 9-2.

McEwen had some bad luck and struggled with draw weight at important times. In the fifth end, tied 1-1, a McEwen draw came up light thanks to a flat spot and he surrendered two. The same thing in the sixth, but this time it was a steal of five he gave up.

“We’ve been building for a couple of days now, and with this new format you don’t want to drop too many games early if you’re trying to find your way into the final four. So it was huge for us today. Waking up, if it had been a split we would have been pretty happy. To win them both is pretty awesome,” said Bottcher, who knocked Team Canada’s Brad Gushue from the ranks of the undefeated in the morning. “We’ve still got to play well because the next four games aren’t going to be any easier.”

Bottcher said he’s playing so well he wouldn’t want to play against himself right now.

“I’m feeling it, and I’m not shy to say that. I’m feeling really well, and I think the guys are playing well in front of me. I’m excited to get out there tomorrow and hopefully keep the train going.”

Both Newfoundland/Labrador teams gathered for a group shot following their game on Wednesday night. (Photo, Curling Canada/Danielle Inglis)

Team Canada finishes second because of the loss to Alberta. Gushue bounced back by beating fellow Bally Haly Curling Club skip Greg Smith, 21, representing Newfoundland/Labrador (St. John’s), 7-2. Afterward, both teams posed for a picture following their historic encounter of two Newfoundland/Labrador teams facing each other at the Brier for the first time.

“It’s great to see them here,” said Team Canada third Mark Nichols. “They’ve been pretty competitive. It was fun to play Newfoundland. Maybe this will encourage them to continue to play competitive.”

But now that the club game is over, it’s on to the Championship Pool.

“They’re all going to be tough teams and tough games. We’re going to have to come out firing the next few days,” said Nichols.

Northern Ontario (6-1), Ontario (6-1), Manitoba (5-2) and Saskatchewan (4-3) were the Pool B teams to advance to the Championship Pool. The round-robin draws are Thursday and Friday (2 p.m and 7 p.m. CST both days).

The top two teams out of the eight will advance to the Page playoff 1-2 game Saturday (7 p.m.) while the next two will play the 3-4 game Saturday at 2 p.m.

The 2018 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by Mosaic, continues with draws Thursday at 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