Canada trumps New Brunswick in tension-packed meeting at Tim Hortons Brier
There was a definite sense of anticipation Saturday at the 2022 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by AGI, when Team Canada and Team New Brunswick locked horns in the evening draw at the ENMAX Centre in Lethbridge, Alta.
But not for the usual reasons.
Television fans and those in the buildings were waiting to see if personal sparks would fly when Team Canada skip Brendan Bottcher and New Brunswick third Darren Moulding shared a sheet of ice after their messy split this winter.
As it turned out, there were no dramatics. Sportsmanship ruled the day, as it often does in curling. Bottcher’s defending Tim Hortons Brier champs (2-0, Edmonton) hung on for a 6-4 victory over skip James Grattan’s Team New Brunswick (0-2, Oromocto), no harsh words were exchanged, and spectators, who were solidly behind Moulding shuffled off to the Brier Patch wondering what all the fuss was about.
“It was a respectful game of curling,” said Bottcher, who is off to the races in defence of the Canadian men’s curling title he won last year in Calgary.
There were no fireworks on the scoreboard, either. Three straight singles gave Bottcher a 3-0 lead after four, and a soft tapback for two pulled Grattan to within one after five. The teams were knotted at 4-4 after nine, and Bottcher clinched the win with a hit with his final stone to score two.
It’s early yet, and Bottcher has six more tough games to negotiate in Pool A round-robin play, but from judging by the early results, 30-year-old Bottcher and his support staff — vice skip Pat Janssen, second Brad Thiessen, lead Karrick Martin, alternate Aaron Sluchinski and coached by Don Bartlett — appear in fine fettle and will be tough to dislodge as Tim Hortons Brier championships
Curling fans were gobsmacked earlier this season when Bottcher, after winning his first Tim Hortons Brier, dropped Moulding, his long-time third, and replacing him with Janssen who had been Bottcher’s alternate at the last two Canadian championships.
Breaking up a championship team is not Standard Operating Procedure, but it happened.
Moulding didn’t take the rebuff well, voiced his opinions with the media, joined Grattan’s team, and helped it qualify for the Tim Hortons Brier.
Moulding, who called the Lethbridge area home for about a decade, was emotional after the game and had to compose himself for the media. He had friends and family in the stands and they were solidly behind his team, even though it is stationed clear across the country.
“Man, the crowd . . . never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be cheered like that,” said Moulding. “So it was all worth it. I was actually surprised by how well I felt out there. I didn’t play amazing, I didn’t play great. We battled hard and made a great game out of it. I’m glad we got that out of the way now.”
Moulding admitted what happened to him “really hurt.” But he cherishes the time he spent with Bottcher’s team.
“I spent five years curling with those guys,” he said. “I’m grateful for all the great experiences we had together. I’ll never forget that.”
Bottcher thought the crowd atmosphere was “outstanding” even though the crowd was behind New Brunswick.
“They cheered misses,” he said, “but I thought it was a knowledgeable curling crowd. I came into this game expecting it. I’m glad it lived up to that hype.”
Skip Kevin Koe’s Team Alberta (2-0, Calgary) and skip Matt Dunstone’s Team Wild Card #2 (2-0, Regina) also remained unscathed after two days of play to keep pace with Team Canada atop the Pool A standings. Koe, looking for his fifth Tim Hortons Brier title, scored a 14-3, eight-end triumph over the youngsters from Team Newfoundland & Labrador (1-1, St. John’s) skipped by Nathan Young. The game was notable in that Newfoundland & Labrador’s alternate Nick Codner was inserted late in the game. Codner, at 15 years of age, became the youngest curler to ever play in a Tim Hortons Brier.
Meanwhile, Dunstone posted a 7-6 win over Team Ontario (0-2, Penetanguishene) skipped by 59-year-old Glenn Howard, playing in his 18th Canadian men’s curling championship. Howard had the gross misfortune to have his final-rock draw to the eight-foot ‘pick’ in the sixth, resulting in a swing of three points.
In the only other game in the Pool A slate of games, Team Yukon (1-1, Whitehorse), skipped by Thomas Scoffin, was a 13-7 winner over Tyler Smith’s Team Prince Edward Island (0-1, Crapaud).
The 18 teams are split into two pools of nine, and will play a complete eight-game round robin. The top three teams in each pool advance to the playoffs where it will be further reduced to a Final Four and a Page playoff system.
The final goes Sunday, March 13.
The 2022 Tim Hortons Brier continues with draws Sunday at 8:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.(all times MT).
Live scoring, standings and statistics for the 2022 Tim Hortons Brier are available at curling.ca/scoreboard.
TSN and RDS2 (streamed on ESPN3 in the United States) will provide complete coverage of the 2022 Tim Hortons Brier. CLICK HERE for the complete schedule.
For ticket information for the 2022 Tim Hortons Brier, go to www.curling.ca/2022brier/tickets/
This story will be available in French as soon as possible at www.curling.ca/2022brier/nouvelles/?lang=fr