Prince Edward Island is well-represented at the Tim Hortons Brier this year, with Team PEI, along with Islanders Brett Gallant on Team Newfoundland and Labrador, and Adam Casey on Team Manitoba. From Curling Canada, here is a look at these teams:
Prince Edward Island
Team PEI (L-R): Bryan Cochrane, Ian MacAulay, Morgan Currie, Mark O’Rourke
Bryan Cochrane’s rink, from the Cornwall Curling Club, proved to be too much of a triple-threat in claiming the Prince Edward Island Tankard.
Cochrane and his team comprised of P.E.I. natives Ian MacAulay at vice-skip and Morgan Currie at second – both from his reigning World Senior championship rink, along with 10-time P.E.I. Tankard winner Mark O’Rourke at lead – swept the A, B and C events of the modified triple-knockout competition.
Cochrane defeated former P.E.I. champ Eddie MacKenzie in both the A- and B-finals by 8-1 and 8-4 scores, respectively, before downing the Philip Gorveatt team 7-4 in the C-event final at the Montague Curling Rink.
The sweep gave Team Cochrane the P.E.I. Tankard title without needing to play the championship round.
Cochrane, of Ontario, plays as an import and is no stranger to the Tim Hortons Brier, having qualified in 2003 out of Ottawa, defeating Peter Corner in the provincial final. MacAulay was also on that team. The team finished the Tim Hortons Brier at 5-6, failing to qualify for playoffs.
Cochrane won the Canadian Senior Curling Championships in 2016 and 2018. He went on to claim the World Senior Curling Championship in 2019 with an undefeated run in nine games in Norway. MacAulay and Currie were both members of the team. Cochrane also finished second at the 2017 World Senior Curling Championships in Lethbridge, Alta.
Team Manitoba, with PEI’s Adam Casey 2nd from the right
There is a changing of the guard in the province of Manitoba as Jason Gunnlaugson stunned Mike McEwen 7-4 in the provincial final, earning his first trip to the Tim Hortons Brier, presented by AGI.
Gunnlaugson, nicknamed Gunner because he throws the hardest peel weight in curling, will be joined by his Morris, Man., rink consisting of third Alex Forrest, second/vice-skip Adam Casey and lead Connor Njegovan.
While Gunnlaugson, Forrest and Njegovan will make their first appearance at the Tim Hortons Brier, this will be Casey’s seventh trip to nationals, representing his fourth province. Casey previously represented Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador and his native Prince Edward Island. He is also a Canadian Junior champion and World Junior silver medallist from 2009.
Gunnlaugson was the alternate for John Morris’s British Columbia team which finished second at the 2013 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Canadian Curling Trials.
Forrest skipped his Manitoba team to a silver medal at the Canadian Juniors in 2010 with Njegovan playing second. Njegovan’s wife, Selena, has appeared in three Scotties Tournament of Hearts events and will be playing vice-skip for Tracy Fleury at this year’s Scotties Wild Card game against Jennifer Jones.
The loss for McEwen means it is the first time in seven years that either he or Reid Carruthers will not be representing Manitoba, as either skip or vice-skip, at the Tim Hortons Brier.
This year, a steal of two in the third end and another in the fourth gave Gunnlaugson a quick 4-0 advantage as McEwen attempted a pair of tough in-offs with his first stones in each of the ends, which didn’t pay off.
McEwen got back into it with a draw for three in the fifth end to trail 4-3 at the break. Then down 5-3 and with an open draw for two, McEwen was way light in the pivotal eighth end, trailing 5-4. Gunnlaugson added a deuce in the ninth and ran McEwen out of rocks in the 10th to clinch the victory.
Team McEwen, meanwhile, will advance to the Tim Hortons Brier Wild Card game.
Newfoundland & Labrador
Olympic gold-medallist, World and two-time Tim Hortons Brier champion Brad Gushue will make his 14th straight and 17th overall appearance at nationals.
The popular skip, with his team of vice-skip Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant and lead Geoff Walker defeated Trent Skanes 3-1 in a defensive battle that included six blank ends in the Newfoundland and Labrador championship final.
Gushue was 8-0 in round-robin play in the nine-team event while Skanes finished 6-2 before edging Andrew Symonds 5-4 in the semi-final.
Team Gushue, with veteran coach Jules Owchar on board, has become a perennial favourite at the Tim Hortons Brier, presented by AGI. Gushue, a Canadian Junior champion, also has a pair of runner-up finishes at the Tim Hortons Brier as well as a bronze-medal finish.
Nichols, who at the mid-point of his career joined Jeff Stoughton for three seasons, will also be in his 17th Tim Hortons Brier. Nichols also has the Olympic gold and two Tim Hortons Brier titles to go with three runner-up and two third-place finishes at nationals. He also has one World Men’s, one Canadian Junior and one World Junior title to his name.
Gallant and Walker are also veterans of numerous Tim Hortons Briers, about to appear in their eighth and ninth nationals, respectively. They were both part of Gushue’s back-to-back 2017 and 2018 Tim Hortons Brier championship teams and the 2017 World Championship squad. Walker is also a two-time World Junior champion.