Wild Card’s Bottcher back in Tim Hortons Brier final

BRANDON, Man. — For the second consecutive year Brendan Bottcher will play in the Tim Hortons Brier final, but this time instead of battling Team Canada it will be a battle of Alberta. Bottcher’s Team Wild Card squad from Edmonton advanced to tonight’s final of the 2019 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by AGI, by executing a triple-tap raise with his final shot to score two for a 5-4 semifinal win over Northern Ontario (Sault Ste. Marie), skipped by Brad Jacobs. Wild Card, with third Darren Moulding, second Brad Thiessen and lead Karrick Martin will face Alberta, skipped by Kevin Koe, who has yet to lose a game at this year’s Tim Hortons Brier. The Bottcher bunch lost last year’s final in Regina to Team Canada, skipped by Brad Gushue, a team they eliminated in the 3-4 Page playoff game Saturday night.

Brendan Bottcher, skip of Team Wild Card, celebrates his game-winning shot for two at the end of the Tim Hortons Brier semifinal. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

“We did so well last year, and I was so proud of the guys,” said Bottcher. “I just wanted to come back here and have a good week and see how we stacked up. We’re playing the best teams in the world, literally every game, so you’ve just got to play your best and hope you’re playing Sunday.” Well they did, and they will again tonight, but this time against Koe’s Calgary crew. “It really speaks to the depth we have in Alberta. I was hoping the two of us were going to play each other in the provincial final, but I’ll take the Brier final,” said Bottcher, whose squad won a sudden-death wild card against Toronto’s John Epping the day before the Tim Hortons Brier started to nab the final berth. Following the fifth-end break, with the score 3-3, only one point was scored in the next four ends as both teams played it close to the vest, unwilling to get aggressive for fear the game would get away from them. “The key was just patience. It was a long game, a long slog. So was our game yesterday. You’ve just got to keep going and hope you’ll get a few breaks along the way and we did,” said Bottcher. Moulding had no doubt Bottcher would make the last shot for the win.

Brad Jacobs of Northern Ontario calls line during the semifinal in Brandon, Man. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

“It’s Brendan. He makes them all when it matters,” said Moulding, who feels different about this year’s trip to the final compared to last year. “We’re a little bit more even keeled, a little calmer. We know what it’s like to be here.  We feel like we have a good chance, it’s going to be a good game tonight and just stay nice and even and see what we can do. “[Last year’s experience] has helped us a lot during the playoffs. Our ups and downs have been a lot more steady. We’re enjoying the ride, we enjoy playing in this atmosphere.” In the last five national men’s curling championships, including this one, Jacobs, third Ryan Fry, second E.J. Harnden, lead Ryan Harnden, alternate Lee Toner and coach Adam Kingsbury have gone 46-9 in the round robin, including 9-2 this week, but have yet to go on to win the final. “We had our opportunities,” said Jacobs, the 2014 Olympic gold-medallist and 2013 Tim Hortons Brier champion. “It was a great back-and-forth game, to be honest with you. Kudos to Team Bottcher. They played very well, and they’ve had a great week so far. We just couldn’t pull it off today. “It’s hard to be too disappointed. Obviously we are disappointed that we’re not playing in the final tonight, but I’m really proud of the guys for the way they played all week. We’re going to take this experience and learn from it, and come out stronger.” The 2019 Tim Hortons Brier continues with the final tonight at 7 p.m. (all times CDT). 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