Early in the Thursday evening draw of the 2019 Tim Hortons Brier, it looked like Ontario’s Scott McDonald was going to pull off the upset of the week.
Carrying a 5-1 lead into the second half of the Championship round match, the Scott McDonald rink allowed Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs back into the game through ends six, seven and eight, but followed through with a 7-6 victory in an extra end.
Northern Ontario’s loss ended an eight-game winning streak and gave them their only blemish thus far on the 2019 Brier.
Ontario jumped into the lead without the hammer in the first end when Jacobs slid past the button, allowing McDonald to steal a pair. It was the first time this week Northern Ontario was working with a deficit.
McDonald’s rink continued their keen shooting in the second, locking a protected stone on the four-foot. It forced Jacobs to make another draw for a single. He failed again, this time coming just short and giving Ontario a 3-0 lead.
Jacobs finally got on the scoreboard in the third end, but gave up the hammer for the first time in the game for just one point. McDonald returned the favor in end four, then made a solid bump-freeze onto a Northern Ontario stone to force Jacobs to make a difficult take-out attempt. Ontario stole another one to go into the break ahead 5-1.
After Jacobs scored a single in the sixth end, McDonald made his first mistakes of the game, allowing Jacobs to steal one in the seventh and one in the eighth, making it a one-point game.
Ontario scored another in the ninth, leaving Jacobs with the hammer in the final end, where he was able to tie the match at six. McDonald made a draw to score one in the 11th for the victory.
Meanwhile, Manitoba joined British Columbia and Saskatchewan as the first three of four teams to be eliminated from the Championship Pool. Manitoba almost made it a night of upsets, but lost a highly competitive game versus Alberta’s Kevin Koe, now the lone team without a loss this week.
Instead, Koe’s squad remained patient through the final three ends to earn a 6-5 victory.
“I’m really happy with that win,” Koe said after the game. “After we gave up the deuce in seven, we needed a lot of shots to be perfect and some crucial ones. We made just about them all. I’m really happy. When we needed them at the end, we made them.”
The Carruthers rink kept the game tight through six ends as the teams traded singles and blanks. Two in the seventh end gave Manitoba a 4-2 advantage, but Koe chipped away at Manitoba’s lead by scoring two in the eighth, allowing one in the ninth and collecting another two in the tenth.
“For some reason, we’re good at kind of just sticking around,” said Koe. “If we’re down a few, we don’t just pack it and go away. We fight for a deuce or a steal here or there. Make them make shots at least to earn it.”
Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia opened the Championship round with a loss, meaning all three teams needed to run the table through Thursday evening and Friday in order to have any chance at contention for weekend play. Instead, all three have been eliminated and will play the role of spoiler through Friday’s pair of draws.
Canada knocked over Saskatchewan 8-4 in nine ends, and the Wild Card squad dumped British Columbia 8-3 in eight ends in the evening’s other two matches.
At 6-3, only fifth-placed Ontario has a chance of jumping a spot and earning a bracket-round berth. However, Brendan Bottcher’s Wild Card rink may have narrowed the chance of that happening with their Draw 17 victory over B.C.
The top four teams will advance to the Brier’s page playoffs, which begin with the third and fourth seeds meeting at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Friday’s afternoon draw will have Northern Ontario face Canada, B.C. versus Manitoba, Ontario against Wild Card and Alberta versus Saskatchewan.