by Kevin Palmer
The Curling News® photos by Anil Mungal – Click on images to increase viewing size
SASKATOON – If you watch a TSN morning game during the Brier, it always appears that the live arena attendance is smaller than for a night draw.
I’ll pass on a little known secret: the attendance is just as big, however, the spectators are all lined up at the concession stands for their wake-up coffee. The hardest part is deciding which line you are actually standing in, since said line reaches around the entire oval of the arena.
As you already know, Thursday morning featured must-win games for Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, with hometown Saskatchewan attempting to play spoiler against Manitoba. If you were betting on the underdog, you lost in every single case. The playoff-bound powerhouses – Ontario, Manitoba and, um, er, the Territories – all came through with impressive wins.
And it was a great job by Team Jamie Koe. After a 5-1 start they had dropped three games in a row, and they had also lost control of the hammer by the fourth end of their NB match. A steal of two in five put them in control, but then they surrendered a three in the sixth.
Calmly, Jamie led his squad to a rebound deuce in seven and another steal of two in the eighth frame (after back-to-back raise attempt field goals by Terry Odishaw) on their way to a tiebreaker clinching win.
Meanwhile, Rob “Doogie Howser” Fowler clinched at least a tiebreaker with his convincing win over Scott Manners. A three-count in the first end gave the Manitobans full control and they never looked to be in much danger.
Rob enjoys his takeouts so much, he often follows them down the ice to the end of the sheet. It hurts my groin to even watch as he slides the length of the ice at nearly the same speed as the stone he just fired. Myself, I prefer more of the Jamie Koe-style of throwing; starting to stand up even before the rock has been released.
The afternoon draw saw Alberta defeat Nova Scotia to set up their battle with Ontario in the evening. Manitoba continued its hot streak and moved Northern Ontario aside 10-4, and secured at least the number three playoff spot. New Brunswick upset B.C. 7-5 and Team Jacobs would then need a disappointed Jim Cotter team to win over J Koe to gain their tiebreak in the evening draw. That outcome was not to be, as The Other Koe swept the day with a convincing 8-3 win over B.C. and a lock on the fourth and final playoff spot – no tiebreakers.
It marked a historic event; the first time the Territories had made the playoffs since that format began in 1980. It was also a historic event for gamblers, as it marked the first TERR game to go under the 12 ½ point total all week.
The featured TSN night game was the annual Thursday night tilt between Alberta and Ontario. There was more at stake than just first place here: an Alberta loss would push Kevin Koe down to the Page playoff 3 vs 4 game – a rematch with his brother – and a loss for me against Steve Lobel in the annual Brier Bet for our respective provinces. Clearly Glenn Howard knew that Steve needed a victory after a decade of Randy Ferbey and Kevin Martin dominating this wager.
There are 160 stones thrown in a full 10-end curling game, and Koe versus Howard showed how important just a few shots can be. Kevin had a possible chance to score two early, but rolled out by a few inches on a hit attempt, resulted in a blank. A missed draw in the fourthby Koe led to a Howard steal. In the next end, a hit and stick on the blank attempt by Kevin and at the break Howard now had the hammer, tied 1-1.
They swapped deuces. In the ninth end, tied 3-3 without last rock, Koe is attempting to either steal or force Howard to one. Alberta second Carter Rycroft rubs a guard in the attempt to set up the inning, and the end result is a score of three by Howard and the win for Ontario. Steve, your Kaptain Koe T-shirt will arrive next week.
The first round of playoffs are set: ON vs MB in the 1-2 playoff tonight, and Koe vs Koe in the 3-4 on Saturday afternoon…