April 17th, 2024

Northern Ontario’s Bonot, Northwest Territories’ Koe stage Brier upsets

By Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press on March 4, 2024.

Northwest Territories skip Jamie Koe celebrates after defeating Brad Gushue's Team Canada rink during the Brier, in Regina, on Monday, March 4, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

REGINA – Northern Ontario’s Trevor Bonot summed up Monday’s unexpected outcomes at the Canadian men’s curling championship in a few succinct sentences.

“It’s curling. Honestly, you don’t expect anything. You can hope for it,” the team’s skip said. “Things happen. It’s honestly one of the reasons why we play it. It’s played on ice. It’s a slippery game.”

Bonot’s team ranked 60th in Canada stole a point in the 10th end in a 6-5 win over No. 1 Brendan Bottcher of Alberta.

Bottcher, who executed all his draws in the game perfectly to that point, stopped well short of the rings against a Northern Ontario counter with his last delivery.

“I was just a little bit light,” Bottcher said. “I liked how I slid and I just didn’t have quite the release I needed.”

Bonot and Bottcher were tied at 3-1 in Pool A. Manitoba’s Reid Carruthers (3-0) had Monday off.

Northwest Territories’ Jamie Koe provided another upset in the morning by beating defending champion Brad Gushue 7-5.

Koe, who has skipped a territories team to the Brier playoffs once in 16 previous appearances, improved to 3-1 and dropped Gushue to 2-2.

Bonot and his front end of Jordan Potts and Kurtis Byrd are Brier rookies, while third Mike McCarville’s lone appearance was a decade ago.

Their Fort William Curling Club team from Thunder Bay, Ont., doesn’t travel the curling tour as much as Gushue or Bottcher, which is reflected in Bonot’s low national ranking.

But they’ve been a stout team early in Regina. Their lone loss in their first four games was in an extra end to Carruthers, who is ranked fifth in Canada and has former Northern Ontario curling star Brad Jacobs throwing last rocks.

“If you don’t play a lot, you don’t get known,” Bonot said. “We’ve had Brad in our province for a long time so you’re knocking at the door trying to get out. We were there all those years trying to win and this year we came through.

“Since we won the province, we’ve just been on the ice every day and really going at it.”

Saskatchewan’s Mike McEwen (3-0) was the only unbeaten team left in Pool B and faced Nova Scotia in the evening draw.

Alberta’s four-time national champion Kevin Koe, who is Jamie’s older brother, continued to struggle early. He dropped to 1-3 with an 11-6 loss to Quebec’s Julien Tremblay (2-2).

Prince Edward Island’s Tyler Smith and Alberta’s Aaron Sluchinki were tied at 2-1.

The evening draw also featured Gushue versus Kevin Koe and Jamie Koe against Nunavut’s Shane Latimer.

In other Pool A games, Ontario’s Scott Howard recovered from back-to-back losses with a 7-3 win over Newfoundland and Labrador’s Andrew Symonds (0-4), and was tied with B.C.’s Catlin Schneider at 2-2.

Howard’s lead Tim March is dealing with pain in his upper leg. The team doesn’t have an alternate player who can draw in.

Coach Glenn Howard skipped the team up until a December knee injury and isn’t able to play in Regina. Scott Howard added Matt Camm to the lineup just before the Brier to ice a four-man team.

“We always thought my dad was going to kind of be the fifth slash coach,” Scott Howard said. “We don’t want to get too many unknowns kind of on our team because we know what we’re doing right.”

March says he’ll continue to play.

“As long as I can handle the pain, I’ll be out there playing,” the lead said.

Manitoba’s Matt Dunstone (2-1) thumped Yukon’s Thomas Scoffin 15-2 and Schneider (2-2) doubled New Brunswick’s James Grattan 6-3 on Monday afternoon.

The top three teams in each pool of nine Thursday advance to Friday’s six-team playoff, from which Saturday’s four Page playoff teams will emerge.

Sunday’s winner represents Canada at the world championship March 30 to April 7 in Schaffhausen, Switzerland and returns to the 2025 Montana’s Brier in Kelowna, B.C. as defending champion.

The victor also gains an Olympic trials berth in 2025 pending a top-six result at the world championship.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2024.

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