Koe and his teammates will show up at the 2017 Brier final with the mantle of defending champions and Team Canada. Gushue’s rink will arrive at what is sure to be a jam-packed, and loud Mile One Centre armed with boisterous backing and a true home-ice advantage for a rematch of last year’s Brier final in Ottawa, where Koe and Co. defeated the Newfoundland rink 9-5.
Koe and teammates Marc Kennedy, Brent Laing and Ben Hebert advanced to this year’s big game with a thrilling 7-6 extra-end win over Mike McEwan’s Manitoba entry in Saturday night’s semiinal at Mile One.
Manitoba led 5-2 through six ends and looked to have things well in hand. However, Koe battled back, tying the game by scoring two in the 10th with a superb double takeout and then stunning the Manitobans with a steal in the extra session after McEwan's double runback attempt with his last rock didn't go as planned.
McEwen and his teammates, Matt Wozniak and brothers B.J. and Denni Neufeld are left to find whatever consolation they can in a bronze-medal game against Brad Jacobs and Northern Ontario this afternoon (3 p.m,).
Gushue and his rink of Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker took the direct route to tonight’s gold-medal game (8 p.m. NT) by beating Manitoba 7-5 in Friday in the 1-2 Page Playoff. McEwen got a second life in Saturday’s semifinal against Koe, who had downed Jacobs 6-2 earlier in the day in the 3-4 Page Playoff.
That game was affected by the power outages brought on by Saturday’s wind storm in eastern and southern Newfoundland, which featured gusts approaching 160 kilometres per hour.
It led to a delay of about an an hour, first to wait for restoration of full power after the lights went out, then for scraping and re-pebbling of the ice and finally for some practice throws for the teams.
It also meant the night-time semifinal started a half hour later than originally planned to allow for an adequate turnaround time for the Koe rink.
Gushue hasn’t won in 13 previous Brier tries, getting to the final twice, including last year versus Koe, when their teams featured lineups identical to what they will have tonight.
Newfoundland, which will have last-rock advantage in the first end in the final, has won seven straight games at this Brier, including a 7-6 extra-end win over Team Canada in round robin play.
That game was a dandy, with a fervent, pro-Newfoundland crowd adding to the excitement. Expect it to go up a few notches in the final.
It's what Koe expects. He compared what's coming tonight with the 2014 in Kamloops, B.C., when he and his teammates defeated British Columbia in the Brier final.
"Obviously, it’ll be another level tomorrow," he told the media scrum after the Saturday-night victory. "It will be way louder, but we’re a pretty experienced team and we had a good game with Brad Thursday night, so we’ll be ready.”
What’s at stake in the tonight’s final is $71,000 — $55,000 from the prize pool as champion, $9,600 for Curling Canada’s Excellence Program and $6,400 from Curling Canada’s Athlete Assistance Fund. There’s also a berth as Team Canada into the 2017 world championship next month in Edmonton, $10,000 for Tim Hortons cresting at the worlds, plus the opportunity to sell another cresting position for a minimum of $10,000.
The 2017 Brier winner will also get an automatic berth as Team Canada into the 2018 championship in Regina, receive $20,000 from Curling Canada for promotional personal appearances for the 2017-18 season, Sport Canada A-card funding of $144,000 over two years ($1,500 per player per month) and a berth into the 2017 Canadian Olympic Trials next December in Ottawa, if the team wins a medal won at the 2017 world men’s championship early next month in Edmonton.