Brett Gallant has an odd thing going for him at the Brier.
The rookie third for Newfoundland and Labrador is the only player in this tournament who has never experienced a loss at the Canadian men’s curling championship.
“That’s pretty cool. I’d like to keep that feeling going as long as we can,” said the 23-year-old business student at Memorial University.
“It’s fun out there. It’s fun with the crowd and I’ve always wanted to play at this level. I dreamed about it as a kid. It’s wicked.”
Brad Gushue’s Newfoundland team remained undefeated Tuesday after a solid, but unexciting, 6-3 triumph over winless Andrew Bilesky of British Columbia.
Newfoundland was tied for first place at 6-0 with Ontario's Glenn Howard who strolled to an 8-2 win over Brad Jacobs of Northern Ontario.
Gushue plays today against pesky underdog Jamie Koe of Northwest Territories/Yukon and co-favourite Jeff Stoughton of Manitoba. Stoughton’s entry includes lead Mark Nichols, the Labrador City native who was Gushue’s longtime third and teammate on their 2006 Olympic gold medal-winning rink.
“It’s a tough field and we have some tough games coming up, so we’ll just try to keep our momentum going and play well,” Gallant said.
Newfoundland has a test against Howard Thursday morning and wraps up the 11-game round-robin tournament Friday against Alberta’s free-falling Kevin Martin and Jean-Michel Menard’s surprisingly strong Quebec rink.
Defending Olympic champion Martin tumbled to 1-4 and runs the risk of missing his hometown playoffs after losing 6-5 to Jamie Grattan of New Brunswick. (See Martin says his playoff chances are ‘dead’, page C2 in the full edition).
Sitting at the top of the heap has left Gushue feeling strong and confident.
Post-game parody -
“To be 6-and-0 now is good. I don’t want to say we can afford a couple of losses, but if they do happen it’s not the end of the world,” Gushue said. “It will allow us to go into the last couple of games relaxed. Hopefully, not too relaxed. I like our position.”
And that bodes well for the games against the strong teams to come, he said.
“Our attitude is really good. I like it,” Gushue said. “If we continue to do that, I think ultimately that’s going to help us make some shots. That keeps your confidence high. If you see a teammate getting rattled out there, sometimes that can feed through the team, and that hasn’t happened and hopefully won’t happen.”
Newfoundland made few mistakes against British Columbia.
Gushue forced Bilesky into taking a single point in the first end, but it was the last time Newfoundland was behind the entire game.
“We never had a huge lead the whole game, but we always had a little bit of control, which is nice,” Gallant said.
Newfoundland took advantage of a few Bilesky errors that proved costly to B.C.
Most glaring was a ninth-end attempt by Bilesky to move a Newfoundland stone on the edge of the 12-foot ring out of play and blank the end, giving him the last rock advantage in the tenth.
Instead, Bilesky’s takeout attempt knocked the Newfoundland rock closer to the centre, giving Gushue a comfortable three-point lead in the final end.
“Partly, I think, we haven’t caught all the breaks. That wasn’t a tough shot by any means,” said Bilesky, who skips an all-rookie Brier team.