LONDON, Ontario – Brad Gushue vowed to enjoy himself at the Tim Horton’s Brier and hoped his new, relaxed attitude might finally lead to winning the national curling championship.
“We feel pretty good. We’re actually coming into this one with no expectations,” said Gushue in a departure from his usual intensity. “It’s been a different year. We’re going to have some fun and, hopefully, win a few games.”
So far, so good.
Gushue’s Newfoundland and Labrador foursome mashed Eddie MacKenzie of Prince Edward Island in a 12-1 blow-out in the opening round Saturday at the John Labatt Centre arena.
Mackenzie conceded the game after seven ends and Gushue confessed that winning by such a large margin wasn’t the kind of fun he was expecting in his eighth Brier appearance.
Gushue never went on the defensive after scoring five in the third end and stole points the rest of the way in order to learn as much as he could about the ice that was plagued by frost from heavy overnight rain and unseasonably warm temperatures in an arena lack dehumidifying equipment.
“It was a nice start. We played well and they struggled a little bit.
"It’s little bit frosty. The weather outside has been a bit of an issue. We could see it starting to creep in more and more,” Gushue said.
“It’s fun to win but we wanted to get a feel for the ice from the first game. We didn’t want to come across like we were trying to pad the lead when we were up 9 to 1, or so,” said Gushue, who with third Mark Nichols are the remainder of the 2006 gold medal winning Canadian Olympic team.
“It was a tough balancing act for us to make sure we weren’t just firing bullets down the ice and we were learning something,” Gushue said. “I hope we did a good job but it was tough for us out there for that reason. It’s always nice to win and I’d rather win like that than lose.”
MacKenzie challenged Gushue in the first two ends before his game imploded.
Gushue managed to draw to the button against two PEI stones in the first end to take a single point. MacKenzie’s final stone of the second end was a touch heavy but rubbed against another rock in the four-foot ring that slowed it down enough for a point to tie the game.
The third end was a disaster for MacKenzie. With a pile of Newfoundland and Labrador stones littering the house, MacKenzie clipped a guard on his final shot allowing Gushue an easy draw to score five.
Gushue marched through the remaining four ends by stealing a single in the fourth, two in the fifth, one in the sixth and another two in the seventh.
Both teams brought in their alternate players – Andrew Symonds replacing lead Jamie Danbrook for Newfoundland and Labrador and Jamie Newton for PEI second Michael Dillon – in the sixth end.
“We have to make a lot more shots, that’s for sure,” MacKenzie said. “We had a couple of good ends there and then we fell pretty short.”
Nowhere near as short as Ontario’s Glenn Howard, the 2007 Brier winner, who came up short on a draw to the eight-foot ring on the final shot of the game to hand James Grattan of New Brunswick two points and a 5-4 win.
“I was light,” Howard admitted. “I threw it a little bit light and I thought the guys would get it there but they didn’t. I obviously laid it down and I definitely laid it too light. It’s too bad.”
In other first-round games Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton swamped Jim Cotter of British Columbia 10-4 and Saskatchewan’s Steve Laycock held on for a 6-4 win over Jamie Koe of Yukon/Northwest Territories.