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Canada sets its national curling stage: meet the teams

The ice is pebbled, the rings are painted and the Brandt Centre that normally houses the Regina Pats has transformed into a world-class curling stage, where some of the country’s top curlers are preparing to hit centre ice.
The ice is pebbled, the rings are painted and the Brandt Centre that normally houses the Regina Pats has transformed into a world-class curling stage, where some of the country’s top curlers are preparing to hit centre ice. Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press

The ice is pebbled, the rings are painted and the Brandt Centre that normally houses the Regina Pats has transformed into a world-class curling stage, where some of the country’s top curlers are preparing to hit centre ice.

The field is just shy of being complete, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise, the competition is steep for the 2018 Tim Hortons Brier.

Defending champion Brad Gushue is back for his 15th Brier and the only things that have changed from his past appearances are his colours. This is Gushue’s first Brier with the maple leaf on his back, representing Team Canada. The foursome earned their right to wear the red and white after clinching a 7-6 victory over former Kevin Koe’s former Team Canada in last year’s final. Gushue, along with Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker will look to become the first team since Alberta’s Kevin Martin in 2008-2009 to win back-to-back national titles.

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Hot on their tails will be 2014 Olympic gold medalists and 2013 Brier champions Team Brad Jacobs, who are returning to the national stage for their fourth straight year. They’re seeded third in the competition and will compete against the likes of Saskatchewan’s Steve Laycock and Manitoba’s Reid Carruthers in the first round of pool play.

Carruthers and his team defeated Mike McEwen’s foursome in Manitoba’s Viterra Championship, punching their ticket back to the national championship. Carruthers won the 2011 Tim Hortons Brier and Ford World Championship while throwing second stones for Jeff Stoughton.

Laycock is once again calling the game for Team Saskatchewan and will undoubtedly be the home-crowd favourite. This past season, his rink saw a shake-up with the addition of Matt Dunstone, who now throws fourth stones, while Laycock tosses third. Former second, Colten Flasch stepped away from the team at the end of the 2017 season to skip his own squad. This will be Laycock’s seventh Brier appearance. He picked up a bronze medal after stealing two in extra-end fashion at the 2016 Brier.

This year marks a change up to the Brier’s style of play. Mimicking the 2018 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, 16 teams make up the field—one team representing each province and territory, along with Northern Ontario, Canada and the inaugural Team Wild Card.

The wild card spot will be filled by one of the top two teams on the Canadian Team Ranking System that didn’t qualify out of their province or territory.

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Winnipeg rinks skipped by Mike McEwen and Jason Gunnlaugson face off in the inaugural qualifier game Friday, March 2 at 7 p.m. CT. The winner claims the final berth into the 2018 Tim Hortons Brier.

This game is a big second chance for Mike McEwen, who was hospitalized with the chicken pox during part of Manitoba’s provincial play downs. The foursome-turned-threesome battled throughout the week to earn a spot in the finals. Once McEwen was released from hospital, he joined his team for the championship game—losing a nail-biter, 7-6, to Reid Carruthers.

McEwen sits at second on the 2017-2018 CTRS leadership board, just below Kevin Koe. Gunnlaugson stands at sixth.

The Canadian men’s curling championship officially kicks off Saturday, with opening ceremonies at 12:30 p.m. CT, followed by the first draw at 2 p.m.

Pool A

1. Canada

4. Wild Card

5. Alberta

8. Nova Scotia

9. British Columbia

12. Yukon

13. Newfoundland/Labrador

16. Northwest Territories

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Pool B

2. Manitoba

3. Northern Ontario

6. Ontario

7. Saskatchewan

10. Quebec

11. New Brunswick

14. Prince Edward Island

15. Nunavut

Meet the Teams

Pool A

Team Canada

Skip: Brad Gushue

Third: Mark Nichols

Second: Brett Gallant

Lead: Geoff Walker

Alternate: Tom Swallows

Coach: Jules Owchar

Team Gushue poses for a snapshot after winning the 2017 Grand Slam of Curling Tour Challenge. L-R Lead Geoff Walker, second Brett Gallant, coach Jules Owchar, third Mark Nichols, skip Brad Gushue. Facebook/Team Gushue

Team Wild Card

Mike McEwen or Jason Gunnlaugson

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Skip: Mike McEwen

Third: B.J. Neufeld

Second: Matt Wozniak

Lead: Denni Neufeld

Team Mike McEwen will face off Manitoba rivals Team Jason Gunnlaugson in the inaugural Tim Hortons Brier Wild Card Game. The winner will claim the last spot in round robin play. L-R Skip Mike McEwen, third B.J. Neufeld, second Matt Wozniak and lead Denni Neufeld. Facebook / McEwen Curling

Skip: Jason Gunnlaugson

Third: Alex Forrest

Second: Ian McMillan

Lead: Connor Njegovan

Team Jason Gunnlaugson looks to grab a double first. They will play Team McEwen in the inaugural Wild Card Game to claim their first Brier appearance while representing the first men’s wild card team. L-R Skip Jason Gunnlaugson, third Alex Forrest, second Ian McMillan and lead Connor Niegovan. Twitter/TeamJGunns

Team Alberta

Skip: Brendan Bottcher

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Third: Darren Moulding

Second: Brad Thiessen

Lead: Karrick Martin

Team Bottcher looks to improve upon last year’s 3-8 record. This will be the foursome’s second Brier appearance. L-R skip Brendan Bottcher, third Darren Moulding, second Brad Thiesse and lead Karrick Martin. Facebook/Team Bottcher

Team Nova Scotia

Skip: Jamie Murphy

Third: Paul Flemming

Second: Scott Saccary

Lead: Philip Crowell

Coach: Bruce Lohnes

Jamie Murphy will skip Team Nova Scotia for a fifth time at the Tim Hortons Brier. L-R skip Jamie Murphy, third Paul Flemming, second Scott Saccary, lead Philip Crowell and coach Bruce Lohnes. Facebook/Team Murphy Curling

Team British Columbia

Skip: Sean Geall

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Third: Jeff Richard

Second: Andrew Nerpin

Lead: David Harper

Alternate: Brad Wood

Coach: Gerry Richard

Team Geall celebrates with the trophy and patches after winning British Columbia’s men’s provincial play downs. L-R coach Gerry Richard, lead David Harper, second Andrew Nerpin, third Jeff Richard and skip Sean Geall. Facebook/Team Geall

Team Yukon

Skip: Thomas Scoffin

Third: Tom Appelman

Second: Wade Scoffin

Lead: Steve Fecteau

Alternate: Clint Ireland

Coach: Jeff Hoffart

Team Scoffin poses on home ice at Whitehorse Curling Club. L-R Coach Jeff Hoffart, lead Steve Fecteau, second Wade Scoffin, third Tom Appelman and skip Thomas Scoffin. Facebook/Whitehorse Curling Club

Team Newfoundland and Labrador 

Skip: Greg Smith

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Third: Matthew Hunt

Second: Andrew Taylor

Lead: Ian Withycombe

Alternate: Connor Stapleton

Coach: Joe Murphy

Team Smith poses with Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial banner—the first team that isn’t Team Gushue to represent the maritime province since 2006. L-R lead Ian Withycombe, second Andrew Taylor, third Matthew Hunt and skip Greg Smith. Facebook/Team Smith

Team Northwest Territories

Skip: Jamie Koe

Third: Chris Schille

Second: Brad Chorostowski

Lead: Robert Borden

Jamie Koe will make his 12th appearance at the Tim Hortons Brier. L-R skip Jamie Koe, third Chris Schille, second Brad Chorostowski and lead Robert Borden. Facebook/Yellowknife Curling Centre

Pool B

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Team Manitoba

Skip: Reid Carruthers

Third: Braeden Moskowy

Second: Derek Samagalski

Lead: Colin Hodgson

Coach: Dan Carey

Team Carruthers defeated Mike McEwen in the provincial final to clinch the team’s fourth Brier appearance. L-R skip Reid Carruthers, third Braeden Moskowy, second Derek Samagalski and lead Colin Hodgson. Facebook/Braeden Moskowy

Team Northern Ontario

Skip Brad Jacobs

Third: Ryan Fry

Second: E.J. Harnden

Lead: Ryan Harnden

Alternate: Tanner Horgan

Coach: Caleb Flaxey

The 2014 Olympic gold medalists will look to win their second national title as Team Northern Ontario. L-R Skip Brad Jacobs, third Ryan Fry, second E.J. Harnden and lead Ryan Harnden. Facebook/Team Jacobs

Team Ontario 

Skip: John Epping

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Third: Matt Camm

Second: Pat Janssen

Lead: Tim March

Coach: Jim Wilson

Team Epping defeated veteran skip Glenn Howard to clinch their first-ever Tim Hortons Brier appearance. L-R Skip John Epping, third Matt Camm, second Pat Janssen and lead Tim March. Facebook/Team Epping

Team Saskatchewan

Skip: Steve Laycock

Fourth: Matt Dunstone

Second: Kirk Muyres

Lead: Dallan Muyres

Alternate: Lyle Muyres

Coach: Pat Simmons

Team Laycock hoists the SaskTel Tankard trophy after punching their ticket to the 2018 Tim Hortons Brier. L-R Skip Steve Laycock, third (throws fourth stones) Matt Dunstone, second Kirk Muyres and lead Dallan Muyres. Facebook / Laycock Curling

Team Quebec

Skip: Mike Fournier

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Third: Felix Asselin

Second: William Dion

Lead: Jean-Francois Trepanier

Coach: Michel St-Onge

Mike Fournier’s rink will make their Tim Hortons Brier debut after defeating Jean-Michel Menard in the provincial final. L-R Skip Mike Fournier, third Felix Asselin, second William Dion, lead Jean-Fracois Trepanier and coach Michel St-Onge. Facebook/Glenmore Curling

Team New Brunswick

Skip: James Grattan

Third: Chris Jeffrey

Second: Andy McCann

Lead: Peter Case

Team Grattan clinched their 2018 Brier berth after winning New Brunswick’s Papa John’s Pizza Tankard. This is Grattan’s 12th brier appearance. L-R Skip Jame Grattan, third Chris Jeffrey, second Andy McCann and Peter Case. Facebook/New Brunswick Curling Association

Team Prince Edward Island

Skip: Eddie MacKenzie

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Third: Josh Barry

Second: Christopher Gallant

Lead: Sean Ledgerwood

Alternate: Robbie Younker

Coach: Philip Gorveatt

Eddie MacKenzie and his rink are headed back to the Brier after defending their provincial men’s title with a 12-4 win over John Likely. L-R Lead Sean Ledgerwood, second Christopher Gallant, third Josh Barry and skip Eddie MacKenzie. Source: Curling Canada

Team Nunavut

Skip: Dave St. Louis

Third: Wade Kingdon

Second: Peter Mackey

Lead: Jeff Nadeau

Coach: Barry Westman

Skip Dave St. Louis will lead Team Nunavut at his first Tim Hortons Brier in Regina, Sask. L-R Skip Dave St. Louis, third Wade Kingdon, second Peter Mackey and lead Jeff Nadeau. Facebook/Iqaluit Curling Club

 

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