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Defending champion Gushue to face Alberta’s Bottcher for spot in Brier final

Brendan Bottcher shortened his road to the final of the Canadian men’s curling championship, but not without drama in a 9-7 playoff win Friday over Saskatchewan’s Mike McEwen.

Bottcher led by a point coming home with hammer. The 10th end paused for almost four minutes while the ramifications of a rock burned by his team were sorted out.

Lead Ben Hebert’s broom head clicked third Marc Kennedy’s thrown stone in motion when he and second Brent Gallant crossed brooms.

Watch That Curling Show live from the Brier immediately after Sunday’s final on the CBC Sports YouTube channel.

“Not my first burnt rock. Probably won’t be my last,” Bottcher said. “I’m playing with a lot of veteran guys who have also been there, done that before. All you can do is take a breath and continue on.”

The Brier’s No. 1 seed meets defending champion Brad Gushue in Saturday’s Page playoff that offers an express ticket to Sunday’s final to the winner. The loser must win the semifinal earlier that day to gain a rematch at night.

Five-time Brier champion Gushue was a 9-7 winner over Manitoba’s Reid Carruthers.

McEwen faced Northwest Territories’ Jamie Koe and Carruthers took on Manitoba’s Matt Dunstone in Friday evening’s elimination games. The winners square off in Saturday’s Page playoff that determines Sunday’s other semifinalist.

Gushue, who along with third Mark Nichols and lead Geoff Walker, were two wins away from their sixth Brier titles and third straight to equal Randy Ferbey’s records. Their second E.J. Harnden is a former Canadian, world and Olympic champion with Brad Jacobs.

Canada skip Brad Gushue delivers a rock while playing Team Alberta-Sluchinski during the Brier.
Gushue delivers a rock while playing Team Alberta-Sluchinski during the Brier in Regina on Thursday. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Bottcher’s Albertan lineup is equally accomplished with a combined 10 national titles and five world championships between Kennedy, Gushue’s former second Gallant and Hebert. Bottcher won the 2021 Brier with a different lineup.

“You look at all the names on this team and there are a lot of names that a lot of teams would like to have, so I’m definitely grateful to have been a part of this group,” Bottcher said earlier in the tournament.

Gushue’s team from St. John’s, N.L., shot over 90 per cent accuracy for a fifth straight game against Carruthers. After an 8 a.m. practice, the win over Carruthers made for an earlier night.

“I don’t want to play tonight,” Gushue said. “That was the derby for us. Getting into the one-two game is, you know, get two cracks at the final. For me, it was about getting tonight off and getting to that one-two game.”

Sunday’s winner represents Canada at the men’s world championship March 30 to April 7 in Schaffhausen, Switzerland and returns to the 2025 Montana’s Brier in Kelowna, B.C. as defending champion.

Final end momentum swings

The final end of Bottcher versus McEwen featured many momentum swings. Saskatchewan second Kevin Marsh’s attempt at placing a long guard didn’t cross the hog-line and that stone was pulled.

When McEwen pushed out of the hack on his final throw, just two seconds remained on Saskatchewan’s time clock. Bottcher didn’t throw his last stone because McEwen ticked off another stone on an attempted raise.

“Love to have maybe an extra minute to play the last end, but I thought we did a reasonable job,” McEwen said. “Actually, out of my hand, liked how I threw it. Didn’t affect how the shot went down the ice. Just missed by half an inch or so.”

Curling Canada rules state if a moving stone is touched by the team to which it belongs, all stones are allowed to come to rest, after which the touched stone must be removed from play and all stones that were displaced after the infraction are placed to their original positions, unless the non-offending team considers it an advantage to either leave all stones where they came to rest, or place all stones where it reasonably considers the stones would have come to rest had the moving stone not been touched.

McEwen asked for visual assistance from the umpire to return three removed rocks to their original position.

“It was just difficult to figure out where everything went back,” he said. “In that situation, more rocks in play is better for us trying to steal.

“Thank goodness we were the TV game. If you’re on another sheet beside, you might not be afforded that kind of view from the overhead.”

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