Home-ice advantage!

Team Ontario skip Mike McEwen celebrates his team’s playoff win over Team Alberta on Friday. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Team Ontario thrills crowd with comeback victory at Tim Hortons Brier

It has been consistently found that players — teams and individuals — win more often when playing at home.

That may play right into the hands of Team Ontario skip Mike McEwen, who is the de facto host for the 2023 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by AGI, at Budweiser Gardens in London, Ont., this week.

And, so far, this home-ice advantage business is certainly working.

Backed by a boisterous crowd that came in out of a London blizzard to cheer on the home side, Team McEwen won its fifth game in a row, and it was a biggie, as it knocked off four-time Canadian men’s curling champion skip Kevin Koe of Team Alberta 9-8 in one of two Page playoff qualifier games.

McEwen needed an angle double takeout with the hammer in the 10th end to leave two winning stones in the rings. It was Team Ontario’s only lead of the afternoon.

Brendan Bottcher calls instructions to his Team Wild Card #1 teammates on Friday. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

In the other game, former Tim Hortons Brier champion Brendan Bottcher of Calgary’s Glencoe Club held off the challenge of a Team Northern Ontario (Sudbury) comeback to post an 8-5 victory.

The two winners advanced to tonight’s Page Playoff seeding round against the event’s round-robin pool winners. Team Ontario, based in Toronto, takes on defending champions Team Canada (7-1) skipped by Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., while Team Wild Card #1 tangles with skip Matt Dunstone’s Team Manitoba (8-0) out of the Fort Rouge Club in Winnipeg.

“That was one for the ages,” said McEwen, looking for his first Tim Hortons Brier victory. “I have not been in a game like that for some time. Anything Kevin did, we matched, back and forth the entire game. That was a special playoff game.

“There’s always great playoff games but that ranks right up there. It’s one of the most entertaining I’ve ever been part of.

Northern Ontario lead Colin Hodgson salutes the crowd after what could have been his final game at the Tim Hortons Brier. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

McEwen credited the home crowd for lifting his team, which includes third Ryan Fry, second Brent Laing, lead Joey Hart and coach Richard Hart.

“Every Brier I’ve been in the crowds in Ontario have been great,” he said, “but it’s been even better wearing the black and white.”

For the second game in a row, the home-province team got a break from the opposition skip throwing the last stone. Koe was a bit wide and heavy with a freeze attempt with his last stone, leaving McEwen the chance to win.

“You have to have some things go right for you. You have to execute well but you need little things go right for you to win. There were some things that happen last night that helped us avoid the morning tiebreaker. “

Bottcher, meanwhile, looked to be home and cooled after taking a 6-2 lead. A key end came in the third end when Horgan fanned on a slash in the four-foot, leaving Bottcher a short raise on his own for three. He followed that up with two straight single steals to take a grip on the game.

But the stubborn team from Northern Ontario refused to throw in the towel.

“I thought that was one of our better games of the week,” said Bottcher. “We played great and capitalized on a couple of half shots. I think we still have another gear.”

The final goes Sunday at 7 p.m.

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.

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/