The spotlight seems to always be on Brad Gushue, but the skip of the two-time defending Brier champions from St. John’s suggests he and his team may have been lurking in the shadows a bit this week at the Canadian men’s curling championship.
If that’s true, it will certainly change today in Brandon, Man., as Gushue and Team Canada take on Brad Jacobs and Northern Ontario in a key matchup in the Brier’s championship round.
Gushue and Jacobs, the 2013 Brier winner, take 8-1 records into their afternoon game, with the winner in prime position to grab a spot in the the 1-2 game of the Page Playoffs, the final stage of the Brier.
Jacobs and Alberta’s Kevin Koe had entered the championship round with undefeated records, leading Gushue to suggest to reporters in Brandon Thursday the success of that pair has meant his team has gone somewhat unnoticed this week in Brandon.
But while Koe (9-0) remains undefeated after two wins Thursday, Jacobs fell back into a second-place tie with Gushue as the result of a 7-6 loss to Scott McDonald and Ontario (6-3) Thursday night. It marked the first time this week that Jacobs found himself trailing in a game.
Meanwhile, Gushue and Team Canada were ruthlessly efficient on Thursday in beating Manitoba’s Mike McEwen 4-2 and Saskatchewan’s Kirk Muyres 8-4.
In fact, Gushue feels Thursday was his team’s best day in Brandon, that the rink showed the consistency he said would be required if there was any hope of claiming a third straight Brier title.
“I thought we played like a typical Team Gushue,” he told the media scrum after the win over Saskatchewan. “I thought we controlled each game (Thursday) and limited our mistakes … didn’t give the other teams many opportunities, because that’s kind of the way we play.
“There is still stuff we can clean up, but I like where we’re at now.”
Team Canada closes the championship round with a game against Edmonton’s Brendan Bochtter and the Wild Card entry tonight. A win over Jacobs this morning will absolutely ensure advancement to the Page Playoffs, but it might also take a victory over Bochtter (7-2) to get that prized berth in the 1-2 Page Playoff, where the winner moves straight to Sunday’s championship final and the loser gets a second chance in the semifinal.
“Now, the job is to get into that 1-2 game, which was our goal at the beginning of the week,” said Gushue.
“It gives you two chances to get into the final, which is always nice, because you know you’re playing a strong team. Sometimes, you can play a great game and not win it, so at least you get a second chance to do it.”
Eight teams advanced to the championship round, but only five remain in contention for a place in the Page Playoffs. Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia were eliminated after picking up their fifth losses Thursday.