Back on track!
Team Canada returns to form at Tim Hortons Brier
Skip Brad Gushue’s Team Canada looked a lot more like the polished performers Canadian curling fans have come to expect Tuesday afternoon in its best performance at the 2023 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by AGI, in London, Ont.
Gushue’s defending champs from St. John’s, N.L. (third Mark Nichols, second E.J. Harnden, lead Geoff Walker and coached by Caleb Flaxey) picked a good time to get their game together in winning a heavyweight battle with Team Wild Card #1, skipped by Brendan Bottcher, at Budweiser Gardens.
The loss was the first this week for Bottcher’s Calgary Glencoe Club outfit, which had rolled to five straight victories to start the week. Team Gushue, meanwhile, moved to 5-1 and climbed into a first-place tie with the Albertans in Pool B.
It went the distance, as expected, before Gushue locked up a 6-3 win by running his opponents out of rocks in the 10th.
Gushue made some key shots throughout the game, but perhaps his best came in the fifth end when he made a delicate raise to the four-foot, locked behind cover. Bottcher had no choice but to concede one and hand the defending champs a 3-1 lead.
“It was a huge step forward. We’ve been taking one step forward and two steps back but today maybe two steps forward,” said Gushue, whose team looked very un-Gushue-like for many of its games this week but still managed to win four of its first five games. The defending champs’ only loss came against Team Ontario’s Mike McEwen early in the week.
“I thought it was a game where we avoided those big misses where we didn’t get any benefit from those shots,” Gushue said.
Bottcher wasn’t at his best, shooting an uncharacteristic 59 per cent.
“Just played a couple ends in the middle there that weren’t good enough,” said Bottcher. “It’s a long week at the Brier. It doesn’t hurt you to drop a game and figure out what you need.”
Gushue gave credit to Nichols, who was spectacular, shooting 93 per cent.
“Mark played incredible today,” said Gushue. “He was definitely the star of the game. I thought he played a perfect game.”
The win for Team Canada was huge in its quest to finish first overall in the pool and earn a coveted first-round bye in the seeding round for the Page playoffs. Only the top three teams in each pool advance to the playoffs.
That chase for top spot includes Team Quebec (3-2, Glenmore/Belvédère/Etchemin/Valleyfield), skipped by Félix Asselin who moved right behind the two front-runners with a 6-3 victory over Wild Card #3 skipped by Karsten Sturmay (2-3, St. Albert).
Team Nova Scotia skip Matthew Manuel improved his odds of making the playoffs in Pool A, taking his record to 3-2 with a key 9-7 win over Team Saskatchewan (2-3, Regina), skipped by Kelly Knapp. Manuel made a runback double to score two in the ninth, then stole one coming home to pull out the win.
Team Alberta’s Kevin Koe (5-0, Calgary) and Team Manitoba’s Matt Dunstone (4-0, Winnipeg) are heading the standings in Pool A.
In the only other game on the ice Tuesday, a battle of two winless teams in Pool A collided. Team Newfoundland and Labrador, skipped by Nathan Young (1-5, St. John’s, N.L.), stole two in the 10th end to upend veteran skip Jamie Koe’s Team Northwest Territories (0-5, Yellowknife) 8-7.
The final goes Sunday, March 12.
The Tim Hortons Brier champion will wear the Maple Leaf at the 2023 BKT Tires & OK Tire World Men’s Curling Championship, April 1-9 in Ottawa.
The 2023 Tim Hortons Brier continues with draws Tuesday with the evening draw at 7 p.m. (all times ET).
Live scoring, standings and statistics for the 2023 Tim Hortons Brier are available at curling.ca/scoreboard.
TSN and RDS2 will provide complete coverage of the 2023 Tim Hortons Brier. CLICK HERE for the complete schedule.
For ticket information for the 2023 Tim Hortons Brier, go to www.curling.ca/2023brier/tickets/
This story will be available in French as soon as possible at www.curling.ca/2023brier/nouvelles/?lang=fr