A rematch of the 2013 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings men’s gold-medal game will be part of a dandy opening draw at the 2017 Tim Hortons Brier on March 4 at Mile One Centre in St. John’s.
Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs (Sault Ste. Marie), who won that 2013 Trials final before winning Olympic gold in Sochi, will play B.C.’s John Morris in Draw 1 in St. John’s after both teams won their respective provincial championships on Sunday — the final day of qualifying for the 2017 Canadian Men’s Curling Championship.
Jacobs, with vice-skip Ryan Fry, second E.J. Harnden and lead Ryan Harnden, won the Travelers Northern Ontario men’s title on Sunday at Thunder Bay, knocking off home-town hopeful Dylan Johnston 6-3 to cap an undefeated run through the event.
Jacobs, winner of the 2013 Tim Hortons Brier in Edmonton, was a perfect 11-0 in the round robin last year in Ottawa, then lost both the Page 1-2 game to Newfoundland and Labrador’s Brad Gushue and the semifinal to eventual champ Kevin Koe of Alberta before rebounding to beat Manitoba’s Mike McEwen in the bronze-medal game.
At the belairdirect B.C. Men’s Championship at Abbotsford, the reunited Morris team — rounded out by vice-skip Jim Cotter (who throws last rocks), second Tyrel Griffith, lead Rick Sawatsky and coach Jody Epp — capped an unbeaten by defeating Maple Ridge’s Dean Joanisse 6-3 in the final.
Morris and the B.C. lineup finished second at the 2013 Trials and the 2014 Tim Hortons Brier before he joined forces with a new Calgary lineup with Pat Simmons, Carter Rycroft and Nolan Thiessen to win the 2015 Tim Hortons Brier. He rejoined his B.C. teammates prior to this season.
The B.C.-Northern Ontario match, though, may be an afterthought in the opening draw, as most eyes will be in hometown favourite Gushue as his Newfoundland and Labrador side takes on Alberta’s Brendan Bottcher.
Bottcher, the 2012 Canadian and World Junior men’s champion, won his first Alberta title on Sunday at Westlock, beating Ted Appelman 6-5 in an extra end in an all-Edmonton championship game of the Boston Pizza Cup.
Bottcher and his teammates — vice-skip Darren Moulding (the 2014 Canadian Mixed champion), second Brad Thiessen (the 2016 Canadian Mixed champion) and lead Karrick Martin — will be Tim Hortons Brier rookies. Their coach, however, is anything but: four-time Canadian champion, 12-time Alberta champion and 2010 Olympic gold-medallist Kevin Martin (Karrick’s dad).
McEwen, meanwhile, defended his Manitoba title in dramatic fashion on Sunday. Battling fellow Winnipeg powerhouse Reid Carruthers, McEwen made a double-takeout to score four in the eighth end and sailed home for an 8-7 win in the final of the Viterra Championship in Portage la Prairie.
McEwen, backed up by vice-skip B.J. Neufeld, second Matt Wozniak, lead Denni Neufeld and coach Jon Mead, will be up against Saskatchewan’s Adam Casey in the opening draw.
There was also a repeat winner at the Pepsi Tankard New Brunswick championship on Sunday in Saint John as Fredericton’s Mike Kennedy defended his title with a 7-4 win over Saint John’s Charlie Sullivan. Kennedy, backed up by vice-skip Scott Jones, second Marc LeCocq and lead Jamie Brannen, posted a 3-8 record to miss the playoffs last year in Ottawa. Kennedy, who’ll be making his sixth Brier appearance, won the Canadian senior men’s title in 2013 throwing fourth stones for Wayne Tallon’s team, which went on to win gold at the 2014 World Senior Championships.
The rest of the field looks like this (skip, vice-skip, second, lead, alternate, coach):
Team Canada (Glencoe Club, Calgary) — Kevin Koe, Marc Kennedy, Brent Laing, Ben Hebert, Scott Pfeifer, John Dunn.
Saskatchewan (Highland CC, Regina) — Adam Casey, Catlin Schneider, Shaun Meachem, Dustin Kidby, Jamie Schneider, Pat Simmons.
Ontario (St. George’s Golf and Country Club, Etobicoke) — Glenn Howard, Richard Hart, David Mathers, Scott Howard, Adam Spencer.
Quebec (Etchemin CC, Lévis) — Jean-Michel Ménard, Martin Crête, Éric Sylvain, Philippe Ménard, Pierre Charette, Robert Ménard.
Nova Scotia (Halifax CC) — Jamie Murphy, Jordan Pinder, Scott Saccary, Phil Crowell, Alan Darragh, Bruce Lohnes.
Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown CC) — Eddie MacKenzie, Sean Ledgerwood, Matthew Nabuurs, Robbie Doherty, Phil Gorveatt, Al Ledgerwood.
Newfoundland/Labrador (Bally Haly Country Club/ReMax Centre, St. John’s) — Brad Gushue, Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant, Geoff Walker, Jules Owchar.
Northwest Territories (Yellowknife CC) — Jamie Koe, Chris Schille, Brad Chorostkowski, Rob Borden, Greg Skauge, Terry Shea.
Yukon (Whitehorse CC) — Craig Kochan, Jon Solberg, Ray Mikkelsen, Darrin Fredrickson, Wade Scoffin, Larry Snow.
Nunavut (Iqaluit CC) — Jim Nix, Edmund MacDonald, Greg Howard, Darryl McGrath, Howard Fick, Donalda Mattie.
For tickets to the 2017 Tim Hortons Brier, go to www.curling.ca/2017brier/tickets/