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‘Phenomenal shot’ propels Team Alberta to Tim Hortons Brier semifinal

REGINA – Brendan Bottcher believes his Alberta team is flying under the radar at the 2018 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by Mosaic, but his last shot Saturday just might have blown his cover.

Alberta (Edmonton) got two in the 10th end and a steal in the extra end to edge Northern Ontario (Sault Ste. Marie) 6-5 in the Page playoff 3-4 game to advance to Sunday’s 11 a.m. (all times Central) semifinal.

Bottcher had to make a magnificent draw around two Northern Ontario stones to settle on the the back of the button to have a chance to steal in the 11th. That forced Northern Ontario skip Brad Jacobs to attempt a delicate tap. But, although he had the right weight, his rock didn’t curl enough, allowing the steal. Bottcher had sent it to an extra end by making a miraculous double takeout to score two in the 10th end.

“We (could have played) the double and make Brad draw the eight foot (in 11), but Brad Jacobs isn’t missing the eight-foot. Even if that shot was only kind of there I had to give it a run because it was really our only shot at a steal,” said Bottcher, the 2012 world junior champion who is backed by vice-skip Darren Moulding, second Brad Thiessen and lead Karrick Martin. “That shot in 10, I wasn’t sure if it was there, to be honest. I threw the right weight and we got a little lucky in how it slid off the back one and missed the back one.

“In 11, we needed a pretty big hero shot there, and I’m pretty proud of our guys for stopping that one back button and at least making him shoot.”

The result left Jacobs, the 2013 Tim Hortons Brier champion and 2014 Olympic gold medallist, shaking his head.

“Really all we had to do was touch that yellow a couple of inches and we’d have been fine,” said Jacobs of his last shot. “It didn’t quite finish the way I thought it would.

“(Bottcher’s draw) was a phenomenal shot. An absolutely phenomenal shot. To be honest with you, I didn’t think he was making that shot. That was a ridiculously tough shot, and he made it look easy.”

Alberta, which finished last year’s Tim Hortons Brier round robin with a 3-8 record, will play the loser of tonight’s 1-2 game between Team Canada (St. John’s), skipped by Brad Gushue, and John Epping of Ontario (Toronto).

“The guys are playing great, I’m playing great. I’m just so proud of how far we’ve come in the last year,” said Bottcher, who believes his team has been flying under the radar this week. “I love that role, to be the underdogs, no one expects.

“There wouldn’t be a whole lot of teams that would have placed us in the final three. I’m really happy with where we are, and I think we’ll be underdogs against the last two, and I like our chances, too,. This is such a victory already what we’ve had. We’re going to leave here, it’s going to be a success either way. The sun’s going to come up on Monday morning. It’ll certainly come up a lot brighter if we happen to win it.”

Colin Hodgson, Team Manitoba lead, got a chance to join the Sociables on Saturday. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Jacobs, who was supported by vice-skip Ryan Fry, second E.J. Harnden, lead Ryan Harnden, alternate Tanner Horgan and coach Caleb Flaxey, admitted to being frustrated by the loss.

“We had our opportunities, we just didn’t close on them. Our fate was in our own hands and we weren’t able to close it out. It’s on us, no excuses,” said Jacobs.

Ryan Harnden was back on the ice Saturday after sitting out Friday’s action with an illness that sent him to hospital. He missed three games during the round-robins due to the bug.

The winning team receives $62,000 in prize money, and will represent Canada at the 2018 World Men’s Championship in Las Vegas, March 31 to April 8. If the team reaches the podium in Vegas it will be invited to participate at the 2019 World Financial Group Continental Cup as part of Team North America. Victory also means becoming Team Canada at the 2019 Tim Hortons Brier in Brandon, Man.

Sunday’s runner-up will go home with $52,000, the third-place finisher earns $42,000 while Northern Ontario receives $32,000 in prize money.

The 2018 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by Mosaic, continues with the Page playoff 1-2 game at 7 p.m. (all times CST). It will conclude with the semifinal Sunday at 11 a.m. and final at 6 p.m.

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