Bottcher knocks over defending Brier champs

Wild Card’s Brendan Bottcher is still in contention for a national men’s curling title after knocking over the defending champion Brad Gushue rink in the 3-4 Page Playoff game Saturday afternoon.

The 3-4 Page Playoff of the 2019 Tim Hortons Brier saw a rematch between the last two teams standing at the 2018 version of the event in Regina, Sask.

This year, roles were reversed.

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Edmonton-based, Wild Card rink Brendan Bottcher finally did what was necessary to defeat defending champion Brad Gushue to advance to the Tim Hortons Brier semi-final at Westoba Place Saturday afternoon.

Besides losing 6-4 in the final of the 2018 Brier in Regina, Sask., Bottcher lost a Championship Pool match to Team Canada’s Gushue rink Friday evening. Saturday’s 3-4 Page Playoff had Botcher, this year’s Wild Card squad, stay point for point with Canada until the eighth end when Gushue could not combat pin-point shooting from Bottcher and his third, Darren Moulding. Wild Card won the match 7-2.

Tied at two heading into the eighth, Bottcher closed the end with a bump on a Canadian rock on the button to score four and ultimately locking a berth in the Brier’s semi-final on Sunday.

Bottcher’s opponent in that game will be decided this evening when Brad Jacobs of Northern Ontario faces Alberta rink Kevin Koe in the 1-2 Page Playoff. Koe won a contest between the two teams the previous night, 7-5.

With the hammer to open the playoff match, Gushue blanked the first end to carry the advantage into the second. The tactic failed, however, with Gushue’s final stone picking up some grit off the ice midway up the sheet, allowing Bottcher to steal one for the lead. Canada responded with one of their own in the third to tie the match.

Solid defensive play by Team Canada third Mark Nichols and Gushue in the fourth, plus a missed hit and stick by Bottcher in the fifth forced Wild Card to blank then take a single for a 2-1 lead at the halfway point of the match.

Down 2-1 in the sixth, Canada managed only a single to tie after Bottcher hit a tight-looking double with his final stone to force Gushue to draw. Wild Card responded by blanking the seventh, then scored their quad in the eighth.

In the ninth end, Canada give up a steal of one, and the teams shook hands to end the match, 7-2 in Bottcher’s favor.

At nine wins and two losses heading into the game, Gushue’s blemishes came to Northern Ontario and Alberta through round robin and Championship Pool play. Meanwhile, Bottcher’s three failures came in the hands of Northern Ontario, Alberta and Canada. Their only previous meeting at this year’s event had Gushue double Bottcher 8-4 in their final Championship Pool match on Friday evening.

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