REGINA, Saskatchewan -- Brad Gushue of Newfoundland & Labrador, representing Team Canada used his last stone Friday evening in the extra end against Ontario's John Epping to draw the button for a 5-4 win finishing first overall heading into the playoffs.
The win secures hammer in the Page 1v2 game which will be a rematch against Epping who battled Gushue hard throughout the game. Gushue scored two in the first end, typically a death-knell for anyone facing Gushue, and Epping forced to a single in the 3rd end things looked even more dire.
Epping turned it around, stealing a point in the 5th end to tie the game, trading singles into the 10th end where Epping was down 1 with hammer and a chance to win the game. Gushue held Epping to a single setting up the extra end shot to win.
After so many years of playing to win the Brier, Gushue is in the driver's seat for a second title, back to back would be sweet consolation for the team of Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker after coming up short in the Olympic Trials.
Alberta's Brendan Bottcher faced a daunting task heading to the final round-robin draw, needing a win over 2014 Olympic Gold Medalist Brad Jacobs to secure a playoff berth and avoid tiebreakers, but the young Edmonton based skip turned the page early, stealing a point in the 2nd end to take away the hammer advantage, then stealing two more in the 7th end to blow the game open en-route to a 9-3 win.
Bottcher, with the energizer bunny known as Darren Moulding at third, Bradley Thiessen and Karrick Martin carrying the front end have been impressive this week continuing their breakout season. The win for Bottcher gives them the 3-seed and will also rematch with Jacobs who rounds out the playoff bracket in the 4-seed.
Jacobs with Ryan Fry, EJ Harnden and Tanner Horgan in replacing the under the weather Ryan Harden didn't look like their normal selves as they adjusted to the lineup change.
The Page 3v4 game between Bottcher and Jacobs goes at 2pm CT (3pm ET) on Saturday while the Page 1v2 game goes at 7pm CT (8pm ET) and both can be seen across the TSN network. Winner of the Page 1v2 game advances directly to the final, while the loser will face the winner of the Page 3v4 game in Sunday morning's semifinal.
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