LONDON, Ont. — Brad Gushue was hoping to get something for nothing at the men’s national curling championship.
It didn’t work.
Gushue and his Newfoundland and Labrador team were counting on using the most fundamental of curling strategies to help them beat Glenn Howard’s hot-handed Ontario foursome at the Tim Hortons Brier.
Gushue attempted a basic take-out game against Howard with the two teams failing to score for the first three ends Tuesday afternoon at the John Labatt Centre arena.
But then it started going badly for Newfoundland and Labrador when poor shooting allowed Howard to steal a point in the fourth end and another two in the fifth as Ontario’s sailed to a 6-1 win, with Gushue conceding after eight ends.
Newfoundland rebounded with an 8-3 win over Jamie Koe of Northwest Territories/Yukon, but Tuesday’s performance still left Gushue unsatisfied.
“We were lucky to get the win. We probably didn’t deserve it” said Gushue, citing a narrow-miss by Koe that prevented the Territories from scoring a bundle in the seventh end.
Gushue’s record improved to 5-2, but Newfoundland trails Howard, Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton and Alberta’s Kevin Martin, all tied for first at 6-1. Howard ended Stoughton’s unbeaten streak with a 7-4 win Tuesday night.
The Gushue team has had trouble building high-scoring ends in most games at the tournament and didn’t think they could go all-out on the offensive against the likes of the 2007 Brier and world champions of Howard, third Richard Hart, second Brent Laing and lead Craig Savill.
“We wanted to keep it a little more simple because we haven’t had a lot of success getting ends set up,” Gushue said, “
And when you’re playing a front end like Savill and Laing you can get in trouble.”
Both Gushue and third Mark Nichols had horrible games behind second Ryan Fry and rookie lead Jamie Danbrook.
Nichols missed a wide-open hit and Gushue failed to get a draw into the eight-foot ring that allowed Ontario’s stolen deuce in the fifth end.
“We weren’t throwing it real crisp,” Gushue said. “We couldn’t seem to hit the rings for some reason. It was very strange.”
Added Nichols: “We just didn’t execute. We had a couple of opportunities. We didn’t get the broom in the right place a couple of times and we weren’t throwing the right weight, either. It was a tough game.
“We just didn’t come out sharp,” he said. “I can’t quite put a finger on it. We’ve got to pick up the intensity. I think we were a little bit lax during the game and we’ve got to step it up a notch if we want to get in the playoffs.”
Howard found it hard to believe Gushue would intentionally play so defensively.
“I wasn’t surprised by the first end,” Howard said. “We threw it in (the rings) and he hit it. That was normal. The next two ends had lots of rocks in play and I thought Brad outplayed us in those two ends.”
“I don’t expect any teams to come out here and play poorly, especially a team of Brad’s calibre. They weren’t sharp today, no doubt about it,” Howard said.
Gushue willingly accepted critical assessments of the team’s inadequate performance for most of the game against Ontario.
“Nothing to blame but ourselves,” Gushue said. “It was poor execution, poor throws and poor communication out there. There was a lot of stuff that went wrong and that’s the only reason we lost the game. I thought our game was the right one. We just didn’t execute it very well.”
Gushue, who won his opening game against Eddie MacKenzie of Prince Edward Island, completes his Maritimes experience of the 11-game round robin tournament Wednesday against Shawn Adams of Nova Scotia and James Grattan of New Brunswick. The top four teams advance to weekend playoffs.