Brad Gushue and his rink from St. John’s are looking to make some history this week at the Brier.
Today, in order to continue that quest, Gushue will look to erase some history.
This afternoon (4:30 p.m. NT) in Brandon, Man., Gushue, Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker take on Brendan Bochtter and his Wild Card rink from Edmonton in the Page Playoff 3-4 game at the Tim Hortons Brier.
This will be the fifth time Gushue has been part of a 3-4 game at the Canadian men’s curling championship. He’s lost all four previous four, the last being in 2013.
Gushue and his two-time defending Brier winners must feel they have a better chance of amending that stat after beating Bochtter 8-5 Friday night in the final draw of the championship round. It’s a result that leaves Team Canada with a 9-2 record, the same as Brad Jacobs and Northern Ontario. But Jacobs gets the second seed for the Page Playoffs by virtue of a 7-6 extra-end win over Gushue Friday afternoon.
Northern Ontario will face Alberta and Kevin Koe in tonight’s 1-2 Page Playoff game. Koe is top seed with a perfect 11-0 run in this Brier, remaining undefeated with a 6-5 win over Jacobs in Friday’s late draw,
The 1-2 winner advances straight to Sunday night’s’s final, while the loser remains alive to play in Sunday afternoon’s semifinal against either Gushue or Bochtter, whichever is the victor in the 3-4 game.
Gushue and his rink are looking to join Randy Ferbey’s foursome as the only teams to have won three consecutive Briers. But the skip from St. John’s had often said this week that an immediate goal in Brandon was to earn a spot in the 1-2 game, something he had done with fair regularity at recent Briers. Now, for the first time in a while, he’ll have to take the longer playoff route.
However, he’s taking solace from the win over Bochtter (8-3), something that could qualify as a bounce-back victory, considering the loss to Jacobs earlier in the day. In that one, Team Canada led 4-1 through five end, but only scored two singles with hammer the rest of the way, while Northern Ontario registered a two in six, a three in eight, and the single winning point in the extra end.
So while the game versus Bocchter didn’t mean anything as far as finishing in the top two, it did secure Gushue third place, which gives him first-end, last-rock advantage and choice of stones for this afternoon’s meeting.
“Getting hammer and getting rocks is a big advantage,” Gushue told reporters Friday night. “I think your (chance of winning) goes up by about 20 per cent. So it was important for us to come out and play well tonight and get over what happened (in the loss to Northern Ontario).
“We did that. We played well.”
However, he figures they’ll have to be better this afternoon in what again is again a rematch of the 2018 Brier final, when Gushue beat Bochtter, then representing Alberta.
“I don’t think we got Team Bochtter’s best tonight,” he said following Friday’s win. ”I expect them to be a little bit better tomorrow.”
While draws in the preliminary and championship rounds featured four games at a time, the Page Playoffs involve four individual games at four different times. But it’s not like Gushue hasn’t been here before.
“I’m not to worry about being (on) the single sheet out here, with all the eyes on it,” he said. “That’s kind of what we relish. Those are exciting times.”