WAINWRIGHT, Alta. — Kevin Koe is going back to the Tim Hortons Brier with his new team and he’s guaranteed Calgary’s Glencoe Club double the fun at the Scotiabank Saddledome later this month.
Koe beat rising star Brendan Bottcher of Edmonton 7-4 Sunday in the Boston Pizza Cup final in Wainwright to give himself a shot at a third Canadian title.
“We’re pumped,” Koe said.
“It’s a hometown Brier and for us (near) our hometown Glencoe Club and we’re really looking forward to it,” Koe said.
The Brier will be played at the Scotiabank Saddledome from Feb. 28 to March 8.
This will be Koe’s fourth trip to the Canadian men’s curling championship. He won the Brier and world titles in 2010, was runner up at the 2012 Brier and won it again 2014 but finished fourth at the worlds with a team that it had already been revealed was breaking up.
Koe left to team-up with former Kevin Martin teammates Marc Kennedy (third) and Ben Hebert (lead). He brought in second Brent Laing from Ontario with the designs of representing Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics. This will be Laing’s 10th Brier, Hebert’s eighth and Kennedy’s sixth.
Koe’s former teammates, who also curl out of The Glencoe Club, will be at the Brier as the inaugural Team Canada, skipped by 2010 Olympic champ Martin’s former third, John Morris.
Koe and Hebert are full-time residents of Calgary. Laing has a residence here for the winter and Kennedy is an Edmontonian.
Not winning the Alberta title would have made for a difficult time for them in a couple of weeks, Hebert admitted.
“It would have been borderline human torture,” he said.
“Kevin and I both work downtown and we have a lot of friends and family who have tickets and our sponsors have suites and things. There was a little bit of added pressure. Now we get to enjoy playing at home.”
Koe, who is 40, out-curled the 2012 world junior champion Bottcher, who is only 23, 91 to 70 per cent through seven ends, at which point Koe had enough of a lead at 7-3 that the provincial title was no longer in doubt.
“Our skip was unbelievable, especially in the final,” Hebert said.
“We had a couple of ends where either myself or Marc or Brent missed one to put us in a bit of trouble and he stepped up like the best skip in the world that we think he is and he carried us to victory today.”
Koe scored two in the first, stole another in the second and benefited from Bottcher being light on a draw for two in the third. Koe led 4-1 after five and had Bottcher in trouble in the sixth, but the Edmonton skip made a spectacular four-rock pick for two points.
Bottcher missed a half-rock triple to force Koe to take one in the seventh and Koe instead had an open hit for three.
Koe will be among the Brier favourites in another deep field that includes 2014 Olympic gold medallist Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, who defeated Lakehead legend Al Hackner, a two-time world champion in the 80s, to win his fifth Northern Ontario title.
Also qualifying was 2006 Olympic champion Brad Gushue, who won in Newfoundland and Labrador for the 12th time on Saturday.
“From what I’ve seen, it’s one of the toughest Briers in a long time. Obviously adding Team Canada makes it even harder,” Koe said.
“Briers aren’t ever easy. We had a good week here and if we play like we can we will be in the mix.”
ON THE ROCKS: Other provincial winners Sunday: Steven Laycock (Saskatchewan), Reid Carruthers (Manitoba), Jim Cotter (British Columbia), Mark Kean (Ontario) and Glen MacLeod (Nova Scotia). Qualifying earlier were, Jean-Michel Menard (Quebec), Jeremy Mallais (New Brunswick) Jamie Koe (Northwest Territories) and Bob Smallwood (Yukon) … The Yukon, Northwest Territories, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia will play a pre-qualifier in Calgary Feb. 26-28 for the 12th spot. The pre-qualifying final is at 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 28 at the Saddledome, with the winner playing Ontario that night in the main draw.