Brad Gushue’s Wild Card team continues to exceed the cautionary expectations they set in their post-Olympic Brier, as a comfortable win Tuesday night over Mike McEwen’s Manitoba team improved his undefeated record at 5-0.
“The last two nights I had the best sleep I’ve had since Christmas, so that’s positive as far as feeling rested,” Gushue said. “I think the worry that was coming was kind of that intensity and sharpness. I don’t think we’re quite there with the intensity.
“We’ve had moments of sharpness in recent games where probably being a bit cooler and less intense has probably worked to our advantage, but we have another level to go to.”
Gushue’s team started with the hammer on Tuesday night, and the teams traded back two runs and forced through each of the first five ends, leaving Gushue with a 6-4 lead heading into the break.
In the sixth end, the pattern was broken. With four Gushue stones in the rings – three of them in scoring position – McEwen placed one over the button, leaving Gushue sitting. The three-time Brier champion responded by placing a high guard to take off an angle increase. McEwen attempted a runback to score at least one, but missed, leaving the Gushue counter up for a steal. This allowed Gushue to take a 7-4 lead.
The Newfoundlanders forced the Manitobans to a single in the seventh end, then scored two in the eighth, taking a 9-5 lead in the ninth end.
As McEwen’s path to victory narrowed, Gushue double-out on his first jump rock, reducing the potential for a big end. McEwen was forced to a single in the ninth and shook hands.
“Well, you might not throw them pretty, but you do them,” Brett Gallant told his captain, after Gushue’s double takedown.
Gushue said keeping things light is how his team stays mentally rested.
“The concern now is what you get in the second half of the week is potentially fatigue — mental fatigue more than physical fatigue,” Gushue said. “Once the game is over, we play pretty well and try to recharge the batteries.”
Manitoba fell to 3-2 as the middle field of Group B continues to tighten.
Meanwhile, Paul Flemming’s Nova Scotia team suffered an 11-7 loss to Brent Pierce’s BC team. It was wild business as Pierce scored a four to take a 6-1 lead, only for Flemming to respond with his own quadruple in the very next end.
Flemming eventually equalized Pierce but never took the lead. With his comeback cut short, Flemming also fell to 3-2 after a strong start to the tournament.
Other Group B games on Tuesday night saw Jason Gunnlaugson’s Wild Card starter score a 6-3 win over Jamie Koe’s Northwest Territories, and Brad Jacob’s Northern Ontario beat the Peter Mackey’s Nunavut 12-2.
As Gushue and the one-loss team Jacobs edge closer to securing playoff berths, the battle for the final playoff spot in Pool B currently sees three teams sitting two-loss apart, with two more teams at stake. three defeats on their heels.
In Pool A, the top four teams all won their matches against the single-win teams on Tuesday afternoon, strengthening them further as the four teams battled for the three playoff spots in this pool.
Wednesday morning’s clash between Brendan Bottcher’s Canadian team and Matt Dunstone’s Wild Card 3 team pits the only two undefeated teams remaining. The match is a rematch of last year’s Brier semi-final in which Bottcher beat Dunstone 6-5 before toppling Kevin Koe in the final.