Advertisement
Sports

Alberta’s Kevin Koe alone in first at the 2019 Brier curling championship

Team Alberta skip Kevin Koe makes a shot during the 16th draw against team wild-card at the Brier in Brandon, Man., Thursday, March, 7, 2019. .
Team Alberta skip Kevin Koe makes a shot during the 16th draw against team wild-card at the Brier in Brandon, Man., Thursday, March, 7, 2019. . Jonathan Hayward, The Canadian Press

The wins are coming, but they’re not coming easy for Alberta at the Canadian men’s curling championship.

Kevin Koe’s team secured a playoff berth and was the only undefeated team left at the 2019 Tim Hortons Brier with a 9-0 record Thursday.

“It seems every game this week has been a grind,” the skip said.

“Nothing is coming easy, so happy with where we’re at.”

Tweet This

When the dust settled on the first day of championship pool play, five of eight teams remained in the playoff picture.

Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs took a first loss to fall into a tie at 8-1 alongside defending champion Brad Gushue.

Brendan Bottcher’s wild-card team was 7-2.

Story continues below advertisement

Ontario’s Scott McDonald edged Jacobs 7-6 in an extra end to stay in the playoff hunt at 6-3.

Team Manitoba skip Mike McEwen makes a shot during the 7th draw against team Yukon at the Brier in Brandon, Man. Monday, March 4, 2019.
Team Manitoba skip Mike McEwen makes a shot during the 7th draw against team Yukon at the Brier in Brandon, Man. Monday, March 4, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Manitoba’s Mike McEwen, Saskatchewan’s Kirk Muyres and B.C.’s Jim Cotter lost twice Thursday and were eliminated from playoff contention.

READ MORE: Manitoba eliminated from playoff contention at the Brier

The top four teams from two pools of eight advanced to the championship round that concludes Friday.

The four teams with the best records in the championship pool advance to Saturday’s Page playoff.

The winner of the Page playoff between the top two seeds goes directly to Sunday night’s final.

The loser drops to Sunday afternoon’s semifinal to meet the winner of the playoff between the third and fourth seeds.

Story continues below advertisement

Teams carried their preliminary-round records into the championship round.

Team Ontario skip Scott McDonald makes a shot during the 10th draw against team Nova Scotia at the Brier in Brandon, Man. Tuesday, March 5, 2019.
Team Ontario skip Scott McDonald makes a shot during the 10th draw against team Nova Scotia at the Brier in Brandon, Man. Tuesday, March 5, 2019. Jonathan Hayward, The Canadian Press

Ontario was among four teams facing an uphill battle with just four wins, but McDonald won twice Thursday to remain in contention.

“It was really important for us to come out and play well and make shots,” McDonald said. “We knew Brad was going to be a tough game and a lot of people would have favoured him to win, especially with how well they’ve been playing.

“We had a game plan we put in play and thankfully we were successful.”

Tweet This

Alberta worked hard for both wins Thursday scoring a deuce in the 10th end to edge Manitoba 6-5.

Team Wildcard skip Brendan Bottcher makes a shot during the 16th draw against team Alberta at the Brier in Brandon, Man., Thursday, March, 7, 2019.
Team Wildcard skip Brendan Bottcher makes a shot during the 16th draw against team Alberta at the Brier in Brandon, Man., Thursday, March, 7, 2019. Jonathan Hayward, The Canadian Press

Trailing Bottcher 6-4 earlier in the day, Koe’s threw an out-turn hit – his bread and butter – on his last shot of the 10th for a three-pointer and the victory.

Story continues below advertisement

“For some reason, we’re good at just kind of sticking around,” Koe said. “If we’re down a few, we don’t just pack’er in and go away.

“We fight for a deuce or a steal here or there or make them make shots at least to earn it.”

Tweet This

In contrast to Alberta, Northern Ontario was cruising along controlling every game until coming out cold against Ontario.

READ MORE: Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs in control at 2019 Tim Hortons Brier

Winning the pre-game draw to the button to get hammer in the first end for a ninth straight game, Northern Ontario gave up a steal of two in the first end and a single-point steal in the second to McDonald.

Team Ontario skip Scott McDonald calls his shot as lead Scott Chadwick and second Wesley Forget sweep during the 16th draw against team Saskatchewan at the Brier in Brandon, Man., Thursday, March, 7, 2019.
Team Ontario skip Scott McDonald calls his shot as lead Scott Chadwick and second Wesley Forget sweep during the 16th draw against team Saskatchewan at the Brier in Brandon, Man., Thursday, March, 7, 2019. Jonathan Hayward, The Canadian Press

“I was awful,” Jacobs said. “Couldn’t buy a shot in the first half of the game in all honesty.

Story continues below advertisement

“We’re still in great shape. Losing right now is exactly what we needed in all honesty.

Tweet This

“You hate to lose, but sometimes when you reflect on a game like that and just the way things have been going all week, I don’t think losing a game right now is a bad thing for us.”

READ MORE: Alberta’s Koe, Canada’s Gushue unbeaten at 2019 Tim Hortons Brier

Lost in the drama of Alberta eliminating the host province and Northern Ontario’s loss, Gushue’s foursome coolly dispatched Saskatchewan with an 8-4 victory.

“I like what we did today,” Gushue said. “We played like the typical Team Gushue. We controlled each game, limited our mistakes and didn’t give the other teams many opportunities, which is kind of the way we play.

“Tomorrow we’ve got to see if we can get into that one-two game, which was the goal at the start of the week.”

Tweet This

Bottcher’s Edmonton rink recovered from the loss to Koe with an 8-3 victory over Cotter.

“It’s nice to not have an evening to sit around and dwell on a loss like that,” Bottcher said.

Team Wildcard skip Brendan Bottcher takes a break during the 16th draw against team Alberta at the Brier in Brandon, Man., Thursday, March, 7, 2019.
Team Wildcard skip Brendan Bottcher takes a break during the 16th draw against team Alberta at the Brier in Brandon, Man., Thursday, March, 7, 2019. Jonathan Hayward, The Canadian Press

Bottcher faces Ontario on Friday afternoon.

Story continues below advertisement

“We just need to go out and play like we’ve been playing these last couple days and just try and give it our best, especially that first game,” he said. “If we can take care of business then, then I think it will pretty much be set.”