The two entries from Newfoundland will play in the same pool in the preliminary round of the 2018 Tim Hortons Brier Canadian men’s curling championship beginning in less than three weeks’ time.
Curling Canada revealed the pool setup Monday and its shows defending champion Brad Gushue and his Team Canada rink out of St. John’s in an eight-team pool that also includes new Newfoundland and Labrador champion Greg Smith and his team, also from St. John’s.
As winners of the 2017 Brier at Mile One Centre, Gushue and his rink of Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker earned a direct bye into this year’s event, which will be held in Regina, starting March 3.
That meant there would be a new provincial champ and Smith and teammates Matthew Hunt, Andrew Taylor and Ian Withycombe emerged from a nine-team field to win the Tankard title earlier this month. They’re the first Newfoundland Brier entry not skipped by Gushue since 2006.
The two-pool format is new this year, what with the Brier field being expanded to 16 teams.
Entries will be from 10 provinces, three territories (Yukon, NWT and Nunavut), Northern Ontario, Team Canada and a wild-card entry.
The latter will be determined the night before the Brier opens with a one-game playoff between two Winnipeg rinks — skipped by Mike McEwen and Jason Gunnlaugson. They were the top two teams on the Canadian Team Ranking System that didn’t qualify out of provincial/territorial playdowns.
Whoever wins that game will join Gushue and Smith in a pool that will also include Alberta team skipped by Brendan Bottcher. Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Yukon and the Northwest Territories round out the A Pool group.
The only other Brier champion in the field‚ 2013 champ and 2014 Olympic gold-medallist Brad Jacobs from Northern Ontario, is in the other pool, along with Manitoba (Reid Carruthers), Ontario (John Epping) and Saskatchewan (Steve Laycock).
Quebec, New Brunswick, P.E.I. and Nunavut finish the B Pool entry list.
After each team plays a seven-game round-robin, the top four finishers from each pool will be combined in championship pool, bringing their preliminary-round records with them. They’ll each play another four games (crossing over to take on teams from the opposite pool).
From there, the teams with the best three combined records move into the medal playoff, consisting of a semifinal (between the second- and third-place teams) with the winner advancing to take on the first-place team, which earns a bye straight to the final.