REGINA – Play it again, boys.
The Page playoff games at the 2018 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by Mosaic, will be repeats of the matchups on the last draw of the Championship Pool Friday night at the Brandt Centre.
Team Canada (10-1) will face Ontario (9-2) in the evening’s 1-2 game after Brad Gushue (St. John’s) defeated John Epping (Toronto) 5-4 by drawing the button with his final shot in an extra end Friday. The 3-4 game will be between a pair of 8-3 teams, Northern Ontario (Sault Ste. Marie), skipped by Brad Jacobs, and Brendan Bottcher of Alberta (Edmonton). Bottcher downed Jacobs 9-3 in the final draw to avoid having to play a tiebreaker Saturday morning.
“We get to play John again, and we’ve got to hope he doesn’t play as well as he did today,” said Gushue. “It took everything to beat him. Both teams curled incredibly well and it came down to an extra-end draw to the button.
Although this is Epping’s first Tim Hortons Brier, Gushue, who is supported by third Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant, lead Geoff Walker, alternate Tom Sallow and coach Jules Owchar, is well aware of his opponent’s capabilities.
“We’ve played him in a Grand Slam final and he curled 100 per cent against us. So I know how good John can be, and when John gets going good there’s nobody better. He starts to feel it and plays with confidence he can make every shot, and he’ll play every shot,” said Gushue, who gets both hammer and choice of rock colour for finishing first. “So he can be tough to play against. We’ve just got to make sure we set the ends up well and don’t leave him those big shots for big points.”
Ontario hadn’t lost since its opening game last Saturday when it was beaten by Northern Ontario.
“We weren’t as good today (compared to Thursday). We kind of did some Houdini acts in a lot of ends. Brad really controlled the game,” said Epping, who plays with third Mat Camm, second Pat Janssen, lead Tim March and coach Jim Wilson. “He had to make a good last one, which is always nice but we’ll have to be much sharper tomorrow night if we want to beat him in the 1-2 game.
“Being in the 1-2 is a huge bonus to us because it means we get two chances to get to the final.”
Bottcher needed a win in one of his final two games and got it by beating Jacobs.
“We did what we needed to do,” said Bottcher, whose team of third Darren Moulding, second Brad Thiessen and lead Karrick Martin, flipped its 3-8 record around from its first Tim Hortons Brier last year in St. John’s to 8-3 this year. “For us as a team this is everything and more that we could have asked for already. We’re going to look at it as it’s all gravy from here.”
Team Ontario and Team Canada will meet again in the Page 1-2 playoff game on Saturday night. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)
Jacobs and his team – which included alternate Tanner Horgan filling in for lead Ryan Harnden, who was ill – will look to redeem themselves Saturday.
“We’re still alive in this thing. We’ve won the Brier before from the fourth spot (2013), so we’ll go out tomorrow and look forward to the battle,” said Jacobs.
Team Wild Card (Winnipeg), skipped by Mike McEwen (7-4), did its part to force a potential tiebreaker by downing Manitoba (West St. Paul), skipped by McEwen’s friend Reid Carruthers (5-6), 8-3. McEwen won two games Friday after losing two Thursday, including one when he was heavy with his final shot to give up a steal of two in the 10th end and hand Ontario a victory.
“We showed today the team we are. The bounce back was good. We were resilient. We probably played our best curling the last two games,” said McEwen .
In the draw’s other game, Saskatchewan (Saskatoon), skipped by Steve Laycock (6-5), downed Nova Scotia’s Jamie Murphy (5-6) from Halifax 7-5.