Team Wild Card #1 wins latest battle of the Brads
Skips Brad Gushue and Brad Jacobs, like many rival teams, have been in a state of perpetual rematch since they first stepped on a sheet of curling ice to face each other.
Sunday night they were banging heads again at the 2022 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by AGI, although the stakes weren’t nearly as high as last time they met when a berth into the Olympic Games was at stake.
Gushue won that one, and Sunday’s meeting, too, in their 59th all-time meeting. Gushue leads the series, 31-28, between the former Canadian and Olympic gold-medal champions.
“I thought we played a really, really good eight ends. That’s as good an eight ends as we’ve played all year, to be quite honest,” said Gushue, who powered his Team Wild Card #1 (3-0, St. John’s) to a 8-7 victory over Jacobs’ Team Northern Ontario (2-1, Sault Ste. Marie) in a key Pool B game at the ENMAX Centre in Lethbridge, Alta. “We were making some pretty tough shots and making them perfectly.”
The win kept Gushue and skip Paul Flemming of Team Nova Scotia (2-0, Halifax) as the only unbeaten teams in Pool B. Nova Scotia kept its slate clean with a 8-4 win over skip Peter Mackey’s Team Nunavut (0-2, Iqaluit) in the race for one of three playoff position up for grabs in the nine-team pool.
Gushue’s win also rubbed a little salt into the wound he opened after handing Jacobs a 4-3 loss in the men’s final of the Tim Hortons Trials, presented by AGI, in Saskatoon last November. Gushue went on to the Beijing Olympics where he won a bronze medal, and Jacobs had to go home and wonder what could have been.
Their games are seldom snoozers, but this one turned into one until the last three ends when Jacobs made a final pushback. That spoke volumes about the excellence of Team Wild Card #1. Gushue and third Mark Nichols both shot 94 per cent.
It’s tough to beat shooting like that.
It boiled down to the fourth end when Gushue made a marvelous in-off to the button to lie four behind partial protection. Jacobs almost removed three enemy stones with a bullet, left two, and Gushue had an open draw for three and a 4-2 lead. Two end later Gushue hung up another three and it was all but over. Jacobs hung in there, closed to 8-6 after nine, but was closed out in the 10th end.
“I was a little surprised in the fourth we had a bunch of rocks in play and lined up, and in the fifth we had a bunch of rocks in play,” said Gushue, whose team is rounded out by vice-skip Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant, lead Geoff Walker and coach Jules Owchar. “Fortunately we won the battle of angles.”
Jacobs wasn’t about to get bent out of shape over the loss, even though it carried potential pain. The first-place finisher in the pool gets a bye into the semifinals of the qualification round of the six-team playoffs.
“We were a little sloppy and honestly I think we got outplayed,” said Jacobs. “We didn’t have our ‘A’ game tonight, but it’s a long week and if we’re going to lose a game in our pool, that’s one of the teams to lose it to. They played really well”
Jason Gunnlaugson moved into a two-way tie with Jacobs for third place after skipping his Team Wild Card #3 (2-1, Morris, Man.) to a 9-7 win over skip Mike Fournier’s Team Quebec (1-2, Dollard-des-Ormeaux). It was the Gunner’s second win of the day.
In the only other game in the Pool B slate of games, Team British Columbia (1-2, New Westminster) stopped the bleeding after skip Brent Pierce orchestrated a 7-3 triumph over skip Jamie Koe’s Team Northwest Territories (0-3, Yellowknife).
Flemming was full marks for his win but knows he has tough sledding ahead with games against some of the big hitters in his pool.
“It’s a great start. We feel like we’re playing better each game,” said Flemming, making his 10th appearance at the Tim Hortons Brier. “We know we have a lot of tough games ahead of us but for sure a good start. We’re ready for the challenge.
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 Monday 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