The Gunner takes aim!
Team Wild Card #3 makes statement at Tim Hortons Brier
Manitoba, once the kings of Canadian men’s curling, has fallen on hard times.
Don’t look now, but there may be a ray of hope for the Buffalo Boys. Manitoba curling fans were pinning their hopes on skip Mike McEwen at the 2022 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by AGI, but here comes Jason Gunnlaugson, the second team from the Keystone province in the 18-team field.
He may provide what Manitoba curling fans have not seen for a while — a Tim Hortons Brier championship.
Gunnlaugson’s Team Wild Card #3 (1-1, Morris) put in a second consecutive strong performance with a 10-6 win Sunday morning over McEwen’s Team Manitoba (1-1, West St. Paul) in Pool B action.
Gunnlaugson, known as The Gunner, opened with a 5-3 loss Saturday, but put up a stiff fight against Team Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs, one of the best outfits in the world.
It’s still early days, and there are lots of rocks to be thrown this week at the ENMAX Centre in Lethbridge, Alta., but for a couple of games, at least, Gunnlaugson and Co. — third Adam Casey, second Matt Wozniak and lead Connor Njegovan, and alternate Rob Gordon — are reminding curling fans everywhere that Manitoba is still a curling powerhouse, despite its recent track record.
Gunnlaugson was thrilled with the win. It handed a chief rival a loss plus prevented his team from dropping to 0-2 and in a precarious position in the race for a playoff spot in the nine-team pool. Only the top three teams in each of the A and B pools make the grade.
The path to the playoffs can only get easier with both McEwen and Jacobs out of the way.
“Two really good opponents,” said Gunnlaugson. “We can’t be too upset with our play at this point.”
Nobody should be surprised that Gunnlaugson got the better of his provincial rival.
“We’ve had a lot of battles in the past,” said Gunnlaugson, who snapped a three-game losing streak to McEwen with the win. “We beat him to win our first provincials (in 2020). Any time we can beat them, especially in a Brier, it’s a lot of fun for us.”
McEwen’s loss opened the door for a couple of curling heavyweights in Team Brad Gushue and Team Jacobs to grab the early lead in the Pool B standings. Gushue’s Team Wild Card #1, fresh off a bronze-medal performance at the Beijing Winter Olympics, made quick work of skip Peter Mackey’s Team Nunavut (0-1, Iqaluit) 8-1, while Jacobs and Team Northern Ontario (2-0, Sault Ste. Marie) were 11-4 winners over skip Brent Pierce’s Team British Columbia (0-2, New Westminster).
Jacobs, once again, was in full control of his game against British Columbia.
“It’s like we picked up where we left off at the Trials,” said Jacobs, who lost the final of the Tim Hortons Trials, presented by AGI, in Saskatoon in November. “It’s great to be on a really great ice surface. There’s a lot of predictable paths. So far we’ve got a really good handle on the rocks. What it comes down to is knowing where to put down the stick and I think we’re doing a really good job of weight control. We’re making lots of shots.”
Both Gushue and Jacobs are looking to add to their impressive Tim Hortons Brier portfolios. Gushue is looking for his fourth Canadian men’s curling championship while Jacobs has his eye on win No. 2.
McEwen and Gunnlaugson, meanwhile, are looking for their first Tim Hortons Brier title and add to Manitoba’s impressive total of 27 national wins, second only to Team Alberta’s 29.
The puzzling question, though, is why Manitoba has had only one Tim Hortons Brier title in the last 22 years? That belongs to Winnipeg skip Jeff Stoughton who turned the trick in 2011. Why hasn’t Manitoba won more?
“We’re working on it, we’re working on it hard,” laughed Gunnlaugson. “It’s very motivating. The women have been very good but the men haven’t been as dominating as they have been in the past. We’re working on making the playoffs, get it right and win the thing.”
In the only other game in the Pool B slate of games, skip Mike Fournier’s Team Quebec (1-1, Dollard-des-Ormeaux) defeated Team Northwest Territories (0-2, Yellowknife), skipped by Jamie Koe, 9-4.
The 2022 Tim Hortons Brier continues with draws Sunday at 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