Brad Gushue promised to be better Wednesday, and he was.
The St. John’s skip and his Team Canada rinkmates Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker downed Nova Scotia 9-2 in the morning, then rolled passed Nunavut 11-1 in the night-time draw as they clinched a berth in the championship round, the next stage of the Tim Hortons Brier Canadian men’s curling championship.
They were the most decisive wins win of the week for Gushue and Co., who finished second in their preliminary-round pool with a 6-1 record.
On Tuesday, after squeaking out an 8-7 win over New Brunswick, Gushue chided himself for showing impatience in the game, adding he told himself “to get your head out of your ass and start playing better and thinking better.”
On Wednesday, he did just that, curling 92 per cent against Nova Scotia, helping his team score at least a point in six of the eight ends of the abbreviated matchup. He was at 98 percent against Nunavut in a game that was basically over after the first end, when Team Canada scored seven.
“Brad is throwing it really well… he’s reading the ice super well and he’s got great weight, like usual,” Gallant told curling.ca after the final draw.
Gallant normally throws second stones, but mostly was at third against Nunavut, replacing Nichols, who came out after the first end. That gave some playing time at second for Tom Sallows, the Albertan who is the team’s spare.
The fact that both of Wednesday’s games only went eight ends had to be a positive for Gushue, who has been getting treatment for chronic hip/leg pain this week.
“It doesn’t get any easier now." — Brett Gallant
The Gushue rink entered the game against Nunavut already knowing it had earned a berth in the championship round and that it was locked into second place behind Kevin Koe and Alberta (7-0) in Pool B. But a winning result was still important. That’s because advancing teams take their preliminary records with them to the championship round, which begins today.
Gushue, Koe, Jim Cotter of British Columbia (4-3) and Scott McDonald of Ontario (4-3) are advancing from Pool A to the championship round, where they will each take on Brad Jacobs of Northern Ontario (7-0), Brendan Bottcher’s Wild Card team from Edmonton (6-1), Mike McEwen of Manitoba (4-3) and Kirk Muyres of Saskatchewan (4-3), the top four finishers from Pool A.
Team Canada faces Manitoba this afternoon and Saskatchewan tonight, then Northern Ontario and the Wild Card entry Friday.
“It doesn’t get any easier now,” Gallant said. “You know you’re going to get four tough (games). We have to bring it up a little notch.”
The four teams with the best combined preliminary- and championship-round records will move on to Page Playoffs beginning Saturday.
With the Gushue rink competing as Team Canada for a second straight year, Newfoundland and Labrador was represented by the Andrew Symonds rink from St. John’s.
Playing in Pool A, Symonds, Chris Ford, Adam Boland and Keith Jewer, lost 13-4 to McEwen and his Manitobans in their final draw Wednesday. That left the almost all-rookie Brier entry — only Jewer had played in the event before — without a win in its seven games.