Brier: Brad Jacobs closes out perfect round-robin with win over Brad Gushue
Northern Ontario gets choice of rocks and hammer when the teams meet again in playoffs
Parity was the hot buzzword entering this year's edition of the Tim Hortons Brier.
Nothing has changed now that the playoffs are here.
The 12-team round-robin was called one of the deepest fields in the history of the national men's curling championship. There was no surprise at the four teams that made it to the final weekend.
Newfoundland and Labrador's Brad Gushue, Alberta's Kevin Koe and Manitoba's Mike McEwen own the top three spots in the Canadian men's rankings.
Northern Ontario's Brad Jacobs is ranked seventh. He also happens to be the reigning Olympic champion and has yet to lose so far at TD Place.
With a final four this strong, it's anyone's guess who will be hoisting the Brier Tankard on Sunday evening.
"It's going to be a real grind," Jacobs said. "All the teams in the playoffs want this really badly, just like we do."
Northern Ontario closed out a perfect round-robin with a 4-1 victory over Gushue in a preview of the Page Playoff 1-2 game scheduled for Friday night.
The teams played five blank ends before Jacobs scored a single. He stole another point in the seventh when Gushue rubbed on a guard and used hammer in the 10th for a deuce and the victory.
Jacobs won all 11 round-robin games and will have choice of stones and hammer for the rematch. Gushue fell to 9-2 while Koe and McEwen were 8-3, with Koe taking the third seed thanks to his win over McEwen earlier in the week.
The Page Playoff 3-4 game is set for Saturday afternoon. The winner advances to the semifinal that night against the loser of the 1-2 game.
The 1-2 winner advances straight to Sunday's gold-medal game. The semifinal loser meets the 3-4 loser for the bronze earlier that day.
Gushue won Olympic gold at the Turin Games in 2006 but is still looking for his first Brier title. He's making his 13th career appearance at this event.
Jacobs won a national title in 2013 and took the Olympic crown the following year at the Sochi Games. Koe has won two Brier titles and won a world championship in 2010.
McEwen has been a force on the curling tour over the last few seasons but had a hard time getting out of the Manitoba playdowns until this year.
He closed out his round-robin schedule with an 8-3 win over Prince Edward Island's Adam Casey. Jamie Koe of the Northwest Territories held off Quebec's Jean-Michel Menard 8-6 and B.C.'s Jim Cotter beat New Brunswick's Mike Kennedy 7-5.
Team Canada's Pat Simmons missed the playoff cut at 6-5. He beat Jacobs in last year's final in Calgary.
Saskatchewan's Steve Laycock was 5-6, followed by Menard and Ontario's Glenn Howard at 4-7. Jamie Koe was tied with Kennedy and Cotter at 3-8 and Casey finished last in the 12-team field at 2-9.
As a result, P.E.I. is relegated to the qualification pool at next year's Brier in St. John's. The provincial champion will have to compete in a four-team round-robin with Nunavut, Nova Scotia and Yukon for the single berth in the main draw.
Announced attendance was 6,759 on Friday morning, a significant uptick after middling numbers through most of the week. The 8,200-seat venue was less than half-full for most draws after a decent opening weekend.
Alberta's Chelsea Carey won the Scotties Tournament of Hearts last month in Grande Prairie, Alta. She will represent Canada at the upcoming women's world curling championship in Swift Current, Sask.