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Quick start for Gushue, but Smith struggling at first Brier

Michael Burns/Curling Canada
Newfoundland and Labrador skip Greg Smith shouts instructions with gusto to his sweepers during play in his Tim Hortons Brier game against Nova Scotia Sunday. Smith lost a tough one by a 9-6 count to fall to 0-2.
Michael Burns/Curling Canada — Newfoundland and Labrador skip Greg Smith shouts instructions with gusto to his sweepers during play in his Tim Hortons Brier game against Nova Scotia Sunday. Smith lost a tough one by a 9-6 count to fall to 0-2. - Curling Canada

As expected, Brad Gushue and his Team Canada foursome is off to a flying start at the 2018 edition of the Tim Hortons Brier in Regina, Sask.

Gushue and his squad from St. John’s, which includes long-time vice Mark Nichols and front end Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker, improved to 2-0 in Regina with another easy win, this one an 8-3 decision over Thomas Scoffin of the Yukon Territory in Draw No. 4 Sunday evening at the Brandt Centre.

The reigning Brier and world champions opened the Brier with a 10-2, eight-end victory over Sean Geall’s British Columbia squad Saturday.

Gushue is entered in Pool A with Mike McEwen of Manitoba, who won the wild card game Friday night and is now also 2-0, Alberta’s Brendan Bottcher, Jamie Murphy from Nova Scotia, Jamie Koe of the Northwest Territories, who are all 1-1, Scoffin and Geall (both 0-2), along with Newfoundland and Labrador representative Greg Smith, who fell to 0-2 with a 9-6 loss to Murphy Sunday.

The new Brier format sees the top four teams from each pool advancing to a championship pool that will determine the final four playoff teams.

Gushue had an easy schedule to open the Brier. It gets a little harder today with games against Koe and McEwen. Koe beat Gushue in last year’s Brier in St. John’s, and McEwen got the better of Gushue in the semifinal of the Canadian Olympic Trials in Ottawa in December.

It’s been a lot less of a pressure-cooker compared to last year’s Brier held at Mile One Centre.

“There’s not much I’m going to do in my curling career that’s going to match the pressure we felt last year, and the pressure we put on ourselves,” Gushue told reporters in Regina. “Everything else pales in comparison.

“This year has been a bit different with two Olympic trials (men’s and mixed doubles) and kind of a grind. We’re just trying to enjoy this week. Obviously as the week goes on and you get into some big games you’re going to tighten the screws and the games are going to get a little bit more intense, but we’re really just trying to enjoy being Team Canada out there.”

It was another tough loss for Smith, backed up by Matthew Hunt, Andrew Taylor and Ian Withycombe, Sunday. Smith led 5-3 at the break and then stole the sixth end for a three-point lead.

That’s when things fell apart.

Murphy scored three of his own in the seventh before the back-breaker, which was a steal of two in the eighth. For good measure, Murphy stole another point in the ninth.

Saturday, Smith led 7-4 with four in the fifth end, but then struggled from there, losing 9-7.

Gushue and Smith both play twice today, in the morning and in the night draw. Gushue takes on Koe and McEwen, while Smith plays the Yukon and Alberta.

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