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Alberta, Kevin Koe ices Team B.C., Morris in Brier final (VIDEO)
For Calgary skip Kevin Koe, good things come in threes.
The Calgary skip scored three-enders in the second, fifth and seventh ends – each time his rink had the hammer – and posted a 10-5 victory over the Vernon/Kelowna rink of Jim Cotter, John Morris, Rick Sawatsky and Tyrel Griffith in Sunday’s final of the Tim Hortons Brier Canadian men’s curling championship before a standing room-only crowd of 5,238 partisan B.C. fans at the Interior Savings Centre.
Koe was facing the B.C. champs for the third time in Kamloops, winning the only game that truly mattered. He was appearing in his third Brier championship, reaching the final all three times. Sunday’s win was his second Brier tankard.
“The first three was the big one,” Koe said.“We gave up a terrible deuce in one. We bounced right back. Jimmy [Cotter] had some uncharacteristic misses.”
The numbers tell much of the story: Koe shot 92 per cent, Cotter 82 and Morris 72.
“Obviously it was a tough one to swallow. We didn’t perform the way we wanted to. That’s just the way it goes, that’s curling,” said Cotter, of Vernon, who was born and raised in Kamloops.
Team Morris beat Koe 7-6 in the opening draw of the Brier and scored a 9-5 victory Friday night in the one-versus-two page playoff game, which gave Morris a berth in Sunday’s final and a day off Saturday after having played 12 games in seven days.
The loss relegated Koe to the semifinal on Saturday – a 9-8 win over Jean-Michel Ménard of Quebec – and gave the Alberta champs an edge heading into Sunday’s final.
“We just got caught a little on the ice. The ice was good, of course, it just curled a little bit more than we had seen all week,” said Cotter, who made it clear the ice wasn’t a problem, and that Vernon’s Dave Merklinger and his ice team did a great job all week at the Brier.
“We just got caught on that early, and against a great team like Kevin Koe, by the time you catch on, sometimes it’s just a little too late and that was the case for us.”
Added Vernon’s Sawatsky: “I think it was a big advantage for Koe to play in the semi where the ice conditions were the same as the final. We made a few mistakes based on those ice conditions and got caught in a couple of spots. Earlier in the week we would have been fine but because the ice had changed, we didn’t make the necessary adjustments and got caught.
“That’s the difference between winning and losing at that level. A mistake here and there, Kevin and his guys had an advantage playing Saturday and were a little more dialed in than we were.”
Playing in a Brier in his hometown, and with a ton of support in every game, is something Cotter will look back on with pride.
“Kamloops put on a great Brier,” he said. “The fans were amazing, really got behind the team and I couldn’t be more proud of my teammates. I couldn’t ask to play with better guys. They’re great on and off the ice.”
Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton – who captured his first Brier title in Kamloops in 1996 – won bronze with a 9-5 win over Ménard on Sunday morning. Both the Koe and Morris teams received $40,000, while Stoughton earned $30,000 and Menard won $20,000.
Alberta now becomes Team Canada and will compete at the 2014 World Men’s Curling Championship, which runs from March 29 to April 6 in Beijing.
Even though the final result was not what the B.C. champs wanted, the quartet was honoured for its week-long play to get to the last game.
Cotter, Morris and Sawatsky were named to the Brier’s first all-star team while Griffith made the second team.
Earlier in the season, Team Morris lost to eventual Olympic champion and 2013 Brier winner Brad Jacobs in the Roar of the Rings Olympics qualifier final.
“The loss hurts, it stings, but after a few days of healing and reflection, we’ll look back and appreciate the accomplishments we were able to make in a short period of time,” said Sawatsky. “I’m real proud of the guys, the way they played and the way we came together in a short period of time. There’s definitely potential there.”
Added Cotter, about the rink’s future: “We haven’t talked about it. Since we formed the team, we always look at what we can do today to be better for tomorrow. We always just focus on the next event. That was a big reason for our success. We focused on today, not a lot about tomorrow.
“I’m sure in the next couple of weeks we’ll sit down and talk, figure some stuff out and see where everyone’s at.”
n Canada got back to its winning ways in wheelchair curling at the Sochi Paralympics Tuesday.
Vernon’s Sonja Gaudet and Armstrong’s Ina Forrest helped Jim Armstrong and Team Canada defeat China 8-5 to improve to 5-1.
The win came a day after Canada suffered its first defeat, an 8-6 setback to Norway.
Canada opened with four straight wins over Great Britain, Russia, Sweden and the U.S.
Gaudet, Forrest and Canada play Korea today and wrap up the round-robin Thursday with a twinbill against Slovakia and Finland.
The gold medal game is slated for Saturday.
---with files from Kamloops This Week