A decade after former Alberta, Canadian and World Champion Kevin Martin ran the table to win the Tim Hortons Brier, the 2019 Alberta rink of Kevin Koe, B.J. Neufeld, Colton Flasch and Ben Hebert has also accomplished the feat and will represent Canada at the World Men’s Curling Championship later this month.
Koe earned his fourth Brier title by defeating Team Wild Card’s Brendan Bottcher 4-3 at Westoba Place in Brandon on Sunday evening. The victory made his team the 16th in Brier history to go unbeaten throughout the weeklong event.
Just minutes after making the game-winning shot, Koe said it was awesome to be on top of Canadian men’s curling again, particularly for his teammates, second Colton Flasch and third B.J. Neufeld, both of whom had never won the championship before.
“We’re happy for a few reasons. Obviously, the two big ones being winning a Brier for Colton and B.J. You never know when you get to do that and now they’ll be Brier champs forever,” said Koe. “Getting the chance to represent Canada in Canada is something I’ve never been able to do, so we can’t wait (to head) just down the road from Calgary.”
Koe will represent Canada at the World Championships in Lethbridge March 30 to April 7.
Outside of their win-loss records, which had Alberta at 11-0 and Wild Card at 8-3 through the preliminary rounds, the teams’ play on the ice was balanced, both hitting 87 per cent of their shots through the tournament. Skip Koe had a three per cent advantage in that category at 86 per cent over Bottcher’s 83 per cent.
Bottcher was attempting to claim his first championship after falling just short in 2018 with a loss to Brad Gushue in Regina. He said his fortunes didn’t hinge on that one, final rock in the 10th end, but it was a big one.
“We played 10 ends and he made one good shot at the end to win. It was a classic, Kevin Koe-type shot,” said Bottcher, adding he was not bitter about losing two consecutive Brier championship finals.
“I think, for sure, we’re going to win this eventually. I’m not sure losing it two years in a row is much different than losing it 10 years apart,” he said.
Nerves did not play a role in his last shot, which stayed uncovered for Koe’s game-winner.
“I was two feet heavy and, to be honest, we were battling a little bit of patchy ice tonight and I wasn’t 100 per cent sure how fast it was going to be. It just slid an extra couple of feet,” he said.
The teams blanked the first end, but solid draw weight from Wild Card third Darren Moulding and Bottcher forced Alberta to score only one in the second. It looked like Bottcher would follow the same pattern through the second and third ends, but he missed a raise on his first, skip rock allowing Alberta to guard a pair of their stones on the four-foot. Bottcher removed one rock with his final shot, but Koe stole a single to take a 2-0 lead.
Wild Card was unable to convert despite carrying the hammer through the next three ends by blanking the fifth, sixth and seventh. The Koe squad was diligent in staying on top of their opponents by keeping the house clear of Wild Card counters from lead through skip stones.
However, Bottcher finally got on the board in the eighth end. By then, Alberta had bumped their shooting percentage to 93, while Team Wild Card held at 83 per cent. Koe hit a double to lay two when Bottcher doubled the Alberta counters to tie the game.
After two keen shots by Bottcher in the ninth, Koe missed a takeout that would have given him one, allowing Team Wild Card to steal. Alberta entered the 10th end with the hammer. By skip stones, it looked like Bottcher had Koe hemmed in to force an extra end, but his last-rock draw did not fall under protection, leaving Alberta a double for a 4-3 victory.
“I didn’t know if we had made it,” Koe said about his game-winning shot. “I was waiting for them to jump around. They had great sweeping. They went the whole way on that and I don’t know if any other sweepers make that shot.”
Koe’s previous Brier crowns came in 2010, 2014 and 2016.