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Team Canada survives early scare to win opening game at Tim Hortons Brier

BRANDON, Man. – Two-time defending champion Brad Gushue had his hands full and needed a last-rock draw in the 10th end to finally subdue rookie Scott McDonald 7-6 in Saturday’s evening draw at the 2019 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by AGI.

Gushue and his Team Canada (1-0, St. John’s, N.L.) teammates — vice-skip Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant, lead Geoff Walker, alternate Tom Sallows and coach Jules Owchar – fell behind early but never panicked to successfully open their bid for a record-tying third straight Tim Hortons Brier title.

“We came out very sloppy, would be the best description, in the first five ends but we cleaned it up, made some good shots and fought our way back,” Gushue said after overcoming a 3-1 deficit after two ends. “Giving up that three early (in the second end) you know you’ve got your work out, four or five ends, just to get back even and we were able to do that.

“That was hard work tonight.”

McDonald and his team of vice-skip Jonathan Beuk, second Wesley Forget, lead Scott Chadwick, alternate Jeff Grant and coach Sean Turriff from Cataraqui, Ont., were a bit of a surprise team out of Ontario. But having beaten veteran John Epping three times at Ontario provincials, they were considered a team to not be overlooked.

They showed everyone Saturday they will be a team to be contend with.

Ontario’s Scott McDonald was relatively happy with his team’s debut effort at the 2019 Tim Hortons Brier despite the loss. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

“I think it was a great introduction to the Brier,” said McDonald. “It was a real test for us, starting against such a strong team. We knew the atmosphere would be electric, so we knew it was important for us to come out and play well from rock one and I think we did that.”

The Ontario crew scored three in the second end and singles in the fifth, seventh and ninth ends. Gushue countered with a deuce in six and singles in the first, third, fourth, eighth and 10th ends.

“We played right with them, made them make some key shots and we had some opportunities ourselves,” said McDonald.

One of those opportunities was in the seventh. McDonald’s tap back left him counting one with the possibility of two. However, a measurement was tied for second shot rock, so he had to settle for the single and a 5-5 tie.

“I’ve had a few tied measurements before … a little stressful for us and I think that was a bit of a momentum killer,” said McDonald. “Or at least changed the momentum a bit. If we get our two points there, we’re one up instead of tied and I think that might have changed the way both teams played going forward.”

Three-time Tim Hortons Brier champion Kevin Koe and Team Alberta (1-0, Calgary) stole deuces in the eighth and ninth to beat his brother, Jamie Koe and Team Northwest Territories (0-1, Yellowknife) 9-4.

Jim Cotter and Team British Columbia (1-0, Vernon) scored one in an extra end to beat rookie skip Stuart Thompson and Team Nova Scotia (0-1, Dartmouth) 8-7.

Terry Odishaw and Team New Brunswick (1-0, Moncton) stole seven points in three ends and went on to beat David St. Louis and Team Nunavut (0-1, Iqaluit) 10-2.

The 2019 Tim Hortons Brier continues with draws on Sunday at 9 a.m.,  2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (all times CST).

Live scoring, standings and statistics for the 2019 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 2019 Tim Hortons Brier. CLICK HERE for the complete schedule.

For ticket information for the 2019 Tim Hortons Brier, go to www.curling.ca/2019brier/tickets.

This story will be available in French as soon as possible at www.curling.ca/2019brier/?lang=fr

About John Korobanik