Imagine a CFL quarterback trying to win the Grey Cup with one hand tied behind his back.
Brad Gushue celebrates his team’s Page playoff victory over Saskatchewan on Saturday. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)
Well, that’s skip Brad Gushue of Team Wild Card #1 (St. John’s, N.L.) who, despite a severe disadvantage, has his team at the 40-yard-line and within striking distance of the end zone, which is another gold medal at the Tim Hortons Brier, presented by AGI.
Team Gushue defeated skip Colton Flasch and Team Saskatchewan (Saskatoon) 9-7 Saturday afternoon in the 3-4 Page Playoff game at the ENMAX Centre in Lethbridge to move two wins away from capturing his fourth Canadian men’s curling championship.
That he could do it with only three players in the lineup was remarkable.
“To win a Brier playoff with three players is pretty impressive,” said 41-year-old Gushue, who limped into the game with only second Brett Gallant, lead Geoff Walker, and coach Jules Owchar, for support after third Mark Nichols failed a COVID-19 test the day before and was forced to the sidelines.
The good news for Team Wild Card #1 was it still had eight rocks to play with, and play them they did, with Gallant and Walker throwing three of them apiece. Sweeping was a bit awkward as both Gallant and Walker had to flip from side to side to sweep some rocks, but it proved to be manageable thanks to their extensive mixed doubles experience, which requires that skill.
“They played great, they played out of position. I’m real proud,” said Gushue. “There’s no quit in our team. I think we’ve proven that the last eight or 10 years we’ve been together.”
Gushue’s team, which was wildly applauded by fans after the game, got a special cheer and handshakes from the young Team Newfoundland & Labrador players in the backstage hallway as they made their way to the locker room.
The win advances Team Wild Card #1 to Sunday’s 11 a.m. (all times Mountain) Tim Hortons Brier semifinal against the loser of Saturday evening’s Page Playoff 1-2 Game featuring Team Alberta (Calgary), skipped by Kevin Koe, and skip Brendan Bottcher’s Team Canada (Edmonton). The winner moved directly to the gold-medal game Sunday at 6 p.m.
Gushue made it clear how difficult it was to win being a man down.
“It would be like playing a hockey game and killing a penalty for 60 minutes,” he said. “It is that big a difference. You don’t have two guys sweeping. You don’t have the ability to steer rocks the way we can. And arguably we’ve lost our best shooter in Mark.”
It was a wonderfully played game as the teams fought for the win like dogs over an old shoe.
The first five ends were replete with eye-popping shots. First one team would pull off a spectacular shot, and later the other team would check in with one of their own. Just the skips’ stones alone were worth the price of admission.
And, befitting a game like that, it came down to Gushue’s final, white-knuckle shot in the 10th end — a long angle raise in front of the rings on his own rock to kick out the Team Saskatchewan shot for the win.
The loss continued a baffling history for men’s curlers from Saskatchewan at the Tim Hortons Brier. Saskatoon’s Rick Folk was the last to win the title for the sodbusters in 1980, 42 years ago. That’s ancient history for a proud curling province.
“He’s (Gushue) one of the best players in the world for a reason,” said Flasch, who was backed up by vice-skip Catlin Schneider, second Kevin Marsh, lead Daniel Marsh, alternate Pat Simmons and coach Jamie Schneider. “Any time you’re on the losing end of a game like that you can live with it.
“We played good, we battled hard all week. It shows we belong. We’re a great team and everybody knows it now.”
Gushue knows his team still faces long odds.
“Our odds of winning this thing when Mark went down went from a high percentage to a low percentage,” he said. “We’re realistic about what’s going to happen. We’re going to have to play spectacular and get some uncharacteristic misses.”
The 2022 Tim Hortons Brier continues with the Page Playoff 1-2 Game at 6:30 p.m. (all times MT).
Live scoring, standings and statistics for the 2022 Tim Hortons Brier are available at curling.ca/scoreboard.
TSN and RDS2 (streamed on ESPN3 in the United States) will provide complete coverage of the 2022 Tim Hortons Brier. CLICK HERE for the complete schedule.
Click link to read this story at Curling Canada: https://www.curling.ca/blog/2022/03/12/team-gushue-defies-odds/