Friday, March 14, 2008

Heading into Brier Friday

by Jill Officer

WINNIPEG – There must be something about Thursday at the Brier. It’s the last day of the round-robin and everyone seems to come out to play their best… including the teams already out of contention.

Northern Ontario’s Eric Harnden, who has allowed fifth man Brad Jacobs to step in at skip position for the latter half of this week, defeated Saskatchewan’s Pat Simmons in the afternoon, and it’s a good thing Simmons had two chances to clinch a spot in the 1 vs 2 playoff game... for he did just that with a 8-2 drubbing of Manitoba. That killed any home team hopes of making a tiebreaker.

It was a tough week for former world champion Kerry Burtnyk and his young curling team, but the hometown crowd gave the boys a terrific cheer as they left the ice Thursday evening.

In the photo above, you can see that the victorious cornhuskers waited further up the sheet so the Manitobans could take their farewell walk alone. Simmons himself, a little further back from his team, is also applauding.

Nova Scotia stayed tough against the defending champs from Ontario and the Territories kept it close against Kevin Martin and his Alberta squad until the seventh end.

But in the end, things played out as expected, so here’s the confirmed playoff picture:

Newfoundland and B.C. will play in a tiebreaker at 9:00am local time today. You read it right here first, yesterday afternoon, ahead of anybody else (except perhaps the TSN guys).

The winner of that game will play against Ontario in the 3 vs 4 Page playoff game at 2:00pm local time.

And… your feature matchup will be Alberta and Saskatchewan in the 1 vs 2 game on Friday evening, starting at 7:00pm local time.

As I mentioned, Brad Jacobs has stepped in to play for Harnden, but there have been a number of fifth players thrown into the lineups this week…whether for an entire game, a few games, or just a few shots.

Ontario fifth Steve Bice also threw a few bricks, and Alberta alternate Adam Enright did same. So did Mark Butler of Prince Edward Island, Doug Gee of the Territories, Dave Slauenwhite from Nova Scotia and Philippe Menard of Quebec.

Most notably though, after Quebec was out of contention, skip Jean-Michel Ménard switched positions with third man Martin Crete. The former skip – Crete set a record for consecutive appearances as a skip at the Canadian Juniors two years ago – returned to his former haunts and Ménard proceeded to sweep his team’s front-end stones!

Also, in a game that had no bearing on the playoffs, Quebec and Northern Ontario played not one, but two extra ends in the final round-robin draw!

Quebec had last rock in the 11th, but hit and rolled out to go to the 12th. Crete drew to the four foot in the 12th for the win... and perhaps it was better this time that he threw a a draw!

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