Skip Brad Jacobs, third Ryan Fry and front-end brothers E.J. and Ryan Harnden from Sault Ste. Marie were ruthlessly efficient en route to a 7-0 record in the preliminary round.
The opposition shook hands after eight ends in five of those wins. Jacobs hasn’t had to throw his last stone for a win in the 10th yet.
“That just goes to show how well we’re playing and how well the guys are playing in front of me,” Jacobs said Wednesday. “Probably as fresh as we can be. I don’t think we can feel any better.”
The top four teams from each pool carry their records into the championship round Thursday and Friday, from which the four Page playoff teams emerge.
Each team in the championship pool faces the four teams from the other pool. The Page playoff begins Saturday followed by Sunday’s final.
Jacobs, Brendan Bottcher’s wild-card team (6-1) and Manitoba’s Mike McEwen and Saskatchewan’s Kirk Muyres (4-3) advanced out of Pool A.
Alberta’s Kevin Koe (7-0), defending champion Brad Gushue (6-1) and Ontario’s Scott McDonald and B.C.’s Jim Cotter (4-3) qualified out of Pool B.
Jacobs and company won the 2013 Brier and Olympic trials followed by an Olympic gold medal in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.
When asked this week if his rink is in the zoniest zone a Brad Jacobs team can be, the skip replied “Probably.”
In pre-game draws to the button to determine which team gets hammer in the first end, Northern Ontario won all seven games to have control from the outset.
They made the most of it scoring two or more points in the first end, or the second after a blank, every game.
“We’re going to be up against some really tough opponents going forward here,” Jacobs said. “It would be nice to continue to win the hammer, but it’s not a priority that’s for sure.
“If we don’t win hammer in some games moving forward, it’s still a 10-end game and there’s lots of shots to be made.”
The skip says he’s ready to produce a game-winning throw at the Brier when required.
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“I think that time is right around the corner,” Jacobs said. “I welcome it in all honesty.
“Although it’s my job to deliver the last stone, it’s always a team effort and we welcome those moments of pressure all day long.”
Jacobs leads all skips in shooting accuracy at 92 per cent, which matches his team’s tournament-leading percentage.
“Brad kind of has that look in his eye right now and he had that look in his eye and the tone in his voice before we came here,” E.J. Harnden said.
“It’s one of those things playing with Brad for so many years now, you can kind of just sense it.”
While Koe also had his share of games ending early, he went the distance in three. Alberta wasn’t as relentless as Northern Ontario with 86 per cent shooting accuracy.
When they won the Brier and Olympic gold, the Jacobs team persona was that of brash gym rats who, upon executing in big-game moments, released tension with boisterous yells and broom-shaking.
Those emotional swings can be draining over the long haul, however. Jacobs was the top playoff seed in the 2015 and 2016 Briers, but his team did not claim another title.
“We really used our emotions well in the great moments and not very well in the down moments,” Jacobs said.
“I certainly think when you’re controlling your emotions well and staying calm, it makes life a whole lot easier out there as opposed to riding the roller-coaster like we used to in the past.
“We’ve been working at this type of Zen-like calmness for this entire season. It’s nice to be just continually evolving.”