Brendan Bottcher could have apprenticed playing third or front end for more experienced skips after he graduated from the junior curling ranks.
He had faith in his own abilities, however. Bottcher accepted he would be on the wrong end of some lopsided games as a young skip in men’s competitive ranks.
He didn’t take his lumps for long.
The 27-year-old has guided a team into the playoffs at the Canadian men’s curling championship for a second straight year.
“It’s really nice to look around the other top skips in curling and know that I’m six, eight, 10 years younger than some of them,” Bottcher said. “That is good on the ego.
“It feels like we’re doing the right things. I’m just fortunate I can compete with a lot of these guys that have been doing this on an elite level for 15, 20 years. I think it’s just amazing we’re even in the mix.”
Watch below: (From March 2018) After winning his way into the Tim Hortons Brier final to face Brad Gushue on Sunday, Alberta’s Brendan Bottcher spoke to reporters about reaching the curling championship.
Three-time national champion Kevin Koe observed in Brandon that Bottcher is ahead of his years throwing fourth stones.
“He’s not afraid of having the big shot and making it or taking the chance when it presents itself,” Koe said.
“He’s only going to get better. He’s still young. Hopefully he doesn’t get to be his best for a few more years.”
Alberta’s Koe (10-0) and Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs (9-1) locked down berths in Saturday’s Page playoff between the top two seeds at the Tim Hortons Brier.
The winner goes directly to Sunday evening’s final, while the loser drops to the afternoon semifinal.
Defending champion Brad Gushue and Bottcher’s wild-card team from Edmonton (8-2) will square off in the playoff between the third and fourth seeds in a reprise of last year’s Brier final.
The victor is a semifinalist.
Bottcher eliminated Ontario’s Scott McDonald from playoff contention with a 6-4 win Friday afternoon.
Jacobs edged Gushue 7-6 in an extra end and Koe downed Saskatchewan’s Kirk Muyres 9-3 to get into the one-two game.
Bottcher skipped Alberta to last year’s championship game in Regina and lost 6-4 to Gushue.
Ousted by Koe in this year’s Alberta’s playdowns, Bottcher had to beat Toronto’s John Epping in a sudden-death game before the main draw to gain entry.
Bottcher and second Brad Thiessen, 29, have been teammates since their junior days.
Karrick Martin, the 29-year-old son of Hall of Famer Kevin Martin, has been Bottcher’s lead since they won a national university championship for Alberta in 2012.
Moulding, 36, came on board as vice midway through the 2016-17 season. They went 3-8 in their Brier debut in St. John’s N.L., where Gushue took the title in his hometown.
“When we went to our first Brier, we’d only played about 20 games together and that’s not enough to win the Brier for sure,” Moulding recalled.
They’ve steadily gained big-game experience as a foursome via a fourth-place finish at the 2017 Olympic trials and reaching the Brier final.
“We’ve had a year and a half under our belts and we’re feeling like a team now as opposed to three guys and Darren,” Bottcher said.
They claimed their first Grand Slam victory in January at the Meridian Canadian Open in North Battleford, Sask. That felt like a breakthrough for Bottcher.
“Last year we got to a lot of big games and we struggled in a lot of those big games, whether it was a Brier final or some of our other big games of the year,” the skip said.
“You get to big games enough you eventually learn how to win them. That felt like the moment when we learned how to win them.”
Moulding believes Bottcher will push the envelope in Canadian men’s curling. He wants to be along for that ride.
“I honestly believe fully he’s the best in the world and I believe he’s the best in the world right now,” Moulding declared.
“As the five-rock rule has come into play, I think he’s one of the best strategists out there. Plus he can make every shot and he’s not afraid to throw any shot.”
“I want to be along for the first half of his career. He’ll have to find someone else for the last half of his career.”