ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Newfoundland and Labrador’s Brad Gushue defeated Manitoba’s Mike McEwen 7-5 in the Page playoff 1-2 game Friday night to advance directly to the final of the Tim Hortons Brier.
The St. John’s skip scored a deuce in the fourth end and added a steal of one in the seventh before McEwen came back with a takeout for a pair in the eighth.
Gushue peeled a Manitoba stone to score two in the ninth end. He held McEwen to a single in the 10th to the delight of the sellout crowd at Mile One Centre.
Canada’s Kevin Koe will take on Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs in the Page playoff 3-4 game Saturday afternoon. The winner will play McEwen in the evening semifinal for a berth in the championship game Sunday night.
The playoff matchups weren’t finalized until the completion of the last round-robin draw Friday morning.
McEwen earned the top seed with a 5-2 win over Quebec’s Jean-Michel Menard. McEwen and Gushue topped the standings with 9-2 records.
Gushue, who defeated Nova Scotia’s Jamie Murphy 6-3, was seeded second since he lost to McEwen in round-robin play.
Koe beat Mike Kennedy of New Brunswick 7-6 to earn the third seed. Both Koe and Jacobs finished round-robin play at 8-3 but Jacobs was seeded fourth since he lost their head-to-head meeting.
The morning results knocked Menard and British Columbia’s John Morris (both 7-4) out of the playoff picture and eliminated the possibility of tiebreaker games.
“I think we’ve had a good test leading into (the playoffs) with a few (teams) we’ve played against like Koe and Jacobs, those were playoff atmosphere kind of games,” Gushue said. “The crowd was into it and we were into it.
“So it’s going to be very similar to that, which is good for us because we’ve done it twice.”
In the other morning game, Ontario’s Glenn Howard scored a single in the 10th end for a 6-5 win over Jamie Koe of the Northwest Territories.
It was a record 17th Brier appearance for the 54-year-old Howard, who received a standing ovation from the near-sellout crowd of 5,716 after the game.
“I was emotional there,” Howard said. “It’s pretty cool to have people recognize (what) we’ve done. Who knows, that could have been my last Brier. I have no idea.
“I know I don’t have too many left so I relished every moment and that was pretty cool to get a standing ovation from a great crowd.”
Howard, a four-time national and world champion, also holds the Brier record with 217 games played.
Saskatchewan’s Adam Casey finished round-robin play at 5-6, followed by Murphy and Howard at 4-7 and Alberta’s Brendan Bottcher at 3-8.
Kennedy and Jamie Koe were tied at 1-10. The last-place finisher is no longer relegated to the qualification round as the 2018 Brier in Regina will be expanded to 16 teams.
Nunavut, Yukon and Prince Edward Island did not advance out of this year’s qualification round. They will be included in the main draw next year as the field will be split into two pools of eight teams.
The defending champion will continue to return as Team Canada, joining Northern Ontario and the 10 provincial and three territorial representatives.
Curling Canada is expected to unveil details in the coming months on the qualification setup for the 16th team.
The 3-4 loser and semifinal loser will play for bronze on Sunday afternoon.
The Brier champion will represent Canada at the men’s world championship April 1-9 in Edmonton.
Ottawa’s Rachel Homan won the Scotties Tournament of Hearts last month in St. Catharines, Ont. Her team will represent Canada at the women’s world championship March 18-26 in Beijing.