Team Alberta is forcing teams to be aggressive at the Tim Hortons Brier with its remarkably steady play and consistent shotmaking.
Skip Brendan Bottcher has anchored the powerhouse Edmonton side that’s showing it deserves a third straight crack at the national men’s curling championship.
Alberta booked its ticket for another final by topping Saskatchewan’s Matt Dunstone 9-4 in the 1-2 Page playoff game Saturday afternoon at a packed Leon’s Centre.
“I can just tell by looking at everybody that we’re confident and we’re ready for the challenge of tomorrow,” said Alberta third Darren Moulding.
Dunstone had been delivering highlight-reel game-winning shots all week but couldn’t muster much offence against the Edmonton-based foursome.
“They played great and I had a couple stinkers out there,” he said. “That was the difference. We gave up two really cheap steals and one was a three-point swing.”
The Alberta front end of Karrick Martin and Brad Thiessen showed its usual sweeping prowess and Moulding helped set the table for Bottcher, who was solid if not spectacular.
Up one with hammer coming home in the 10th, Bottcher made a hit for four to win.
“I thought we played some pretty good defence,” Moulding said. “We were able to stifle them a little bit. Got a couple good breaks. We got a couple uncharacteristic errors out of Matty. So we’ll take those breaks when they come.”
The Alberta rink suffered Brier final losses to Brad Gushue in 2018 and to Kevin Koe last year.
“I want it bad,” Bottcher said.
“You don’t know how many chances you’re going to get in moments like this.”
Dunstone, who’s making his second career Brier appearance and first as skip, will play in the semifinal on Sunday afternoon. He’ll face the winner of Saturday night’s 3-4 Page playoff game between a pair of Olympic champion skips.
Gushue, from Newfoundland and Labrador, won gold at the 2006 Turin Games and is a two-time Brier champ. He was set to meet Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs, a 2013 Brier champ and 2014 Sochi Games gold medallist.
The semifinal winner will play Bottcher for the championship on Sunday night. The Brier winner will represent Canada at the March 28-April 5 world men’s curling championship in Glasgow, Scotland.
Saturday was a long day for Jacobs, who finished the championship round in a four-way tie at 7-4 and needed to win two tiebreaker games to get the fourth seed.
“We’re right in the thick of things,” said Jacobs, who lost three of his first four games here. “We’re in the playoffs now and it feels great. One more strong performance today is what we’re focused on right now.”
Gushue, meanwhile, was well-rested after taking the No. 3 seed at 8-3.
In the morning games, Jacobs stole three points in the eighth end for an 8-3 victory over Koe. Ontario’s John Epping eliminated Team Wild Card’s Mike McEwen rink from Manitoba 7-6.
McEwen had a chance to score three for the win but his double-takeout attempt was slightly wide and he settled for a single.
READ MORE: Mike McEwen, Wild Card team out of Brier
The top-ranked Jacobs controlled the final tiebreaker against Epping, scoring three in the fourth end and adding a deuce in the sixth. He sealed the victory with a pair in the ninth.
Curling Canada announced the competition all-star teams Saturday. Bottcher was named to the first team along with second E.J. Harnden of Northern Ontario and Wild Card’s Reid Carruthers (third) and Colin Hodgson (lead).
McEwen took the nod at skip for the second team, which included Northern Ontario’s Marc Kennedy, Wild Card second Derek Samagalski and Canada lead Ben Hebert.
Hodgson won the Ross Harstone sportsmanship award in a player vote. The all-star selections were determined by player votes, media votes and shooting percentages.
Announced attendance for the afternoon draw was 4,979 to bring total attendance to 81,031.