July 20th, 2024

Northwest Territories’ Jamie Koe back in Brier playoffs, joined by Gushue

By Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press on March 7, 2024.

Manitoba-Carruthers third Reid Carruthers delivers a rock while playing Yukon during the Brier, in Regina, Thursday, March 7, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

REGINA – A Koe made the playoffs at the Canadian men’s curling championship and it wasn’t four-time champion Kevin.

Younger brother Jamie skipped a territories team to the Brier playoffs for just the second time in his 17 appearances and first since 2012 by stealing a point in an extra end in a 9-8 win over Prince Edward Island’s Tyler Smith on Thursday.

Smith was attempting to lead P.E.I. into the playoffs for the first time in 28 years.

He tried to squeeze past two of his stones above the tee line to beat Koe’s shot stone on the back edge of the button. Smith’s draw was wide and he wrecked on his own stones.

So Northwest Territories (5-3) vaulted over P.E.I. into the final playoff berth in their pool to join Saskatchewan’s Mike McEwen (7-1) and defending champion Brad Gushue (6-2).

“It’s just wild,” said a wet-eyed Koe. “Our fans came down to see us right after. Everyone was crying and got me going.”

Northern teams are at competitive disadvantage to their southern counterparts because of a smaller player pool, as well as the extra time and money needed to travel and play tour events.

“Everyone else probably has won 200 games and we maybe have 20,” Koe said.

Older brother Kevin has been the more successful curler. Kevin skipped Albertan teams to four Canadian championships and two world titles, as well as reaching the Brier playoffs in all but one of his 11 previous appearances.

But Kevin had a grim outing in Regina and finished with a worse record than Jamie for the first time at 2-6.

“It’s unbelievable, that,” Jamie said. “Never really thought of that, but seeing the week they’re going through, they’re pretty demoralized. It’s our moment. We’re going to take it.”

The top three teams in each pool of nine qualified for Friday’s six-team playoffs.

Manitoba’s Reid Carruthers (6-1) was the first Pool A team to lock in a berth with a 6-4 victory over Yukon in the morning.

Alberta’s Brendan Bottcher (6-1) faced Carruthers in the evening draw that would determine that pool’s two remaining playoff teams and seedings.

Manitoba’s Matt Dunstone and Northern Ontario’s Trevor Bonot (5-2) were both chasing playoffs after Dunstone’s 8-3 win over Bonot in the morning.

The top seed in each pool meets the opposite pool’s No. 2 on Friday afternoon. The winners head to Saturday’s Page playoff games that sends the winner to the final and the loser to the semifinal Sunday.

Friday afternoon’s losers play again in the evening against the third seeds. Those winners advance to Saturday’s Page playoff that determines Sunday’s other semifinalist.

Sunday’s winner represents Canada at the men’s 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.

A loss to Jamie Koe earlier in the week had five-time champ Gushue facing a must-win game against Alberta’s Aaron Sluchinski.

Gushue stole three in the sixth end to prevail 10-4 and eliminate Sluchinski from contention with a fourth loss.

“This was a playoff game for us. If we win, we’re still alive. If we lose, we’re going home,” Gushue said. “I felt that this morning. I had a little bit more butterflies and wasn’t able to eat as much.

“Typical stuff that I feel when it comes around playoffs and that’s why I play all year. I really enjoy that and get excited to have that feeling and I certainly had it today.”

Jamie Koe went 7-4 in Saskatoon in 2012 to reach the final four. He lost to Kevin in the Page three-four playoff game.

His current Yellowknife Curling Club foursome of Glen Kennedy, Cole Parsons and Shadrach McLeod shrugged off their underdog status as the tournament’s 15th seed to reach the top six.

“I’m so happy for Jamie and the guys. I’m so happy for Yellowknife and for N.W.T. in general. It’s such a great feeling to show the world what this team can do,” said Kennedy, who is the team’s import from Alberta and the brother of Bottcher third Marc Kennedy. “That was a tremendous game today.

“It’s just nice to see what that kind of bottom of the half of the Brier is capable of and you’re totally seeing it this week.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2024.

Note to readers: Corrects Matt Dunstone’s record in sixth paragraph to 5-2 from previous versions of this story with 6-1.

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