Ontario skip John Epping releases a rock as they play Saskatchewan at the Tim Hortons Brier curling championship at the Brandt Centre in Regina on Wednesday. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Bottcher beats McEwen to score No. 1 seed in Brier Championship Pool

REGINA — Alberta’s Brendan Bottcher has put his rink in great position heading into the Championship Pool at the Tim Hortons Brier.

Bottcher finished the final day of round-robin play at the Canadian men’s curling championship with a 9-2 win over Wild Card Mike McEwen on Wednesday to earn the No. 1 seed entering the next round of play.

Bottcher’s rink forced McEwen’s squad to concede in eight ends.

“We’re just making all the simple shots really well. We’re making the other team play harder shots than we’re playing and that’s working out for us,” said the Edmonton-based skip.

Alberta’s steal of two after a pick on McEwen’s last rock in the fourth end, alongside a five-point ender in the fifth, sealed the fate for the match.

“They were playing well at the time but we would have been ahead on the scoreboard … controlling the game, air kind of came out (of us),” said Winnipeg-based skip McEwen.

Bottcher, Brad Gushue’s Team Canada, Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs and Ontario’s John Epping all finished the round robin with 6-1 records, but the Alberta skip took the No. 1 seed in the Championship Pool after his Pool A win earlier in the day over Gushue.

McEwen dropped to 5-2 with the loss, but still moved on as the top four teams from two pools advance to the Championship Pool of eight. Manitoba’s Reid Carruthers also finished 5-2 to advance.

Newfoundland and Labrador was looking for its second win of the round-robin going up against Team Canada in the evening draw. Greg Smith of St. John’s, N.L., was able to force a few ends against the 2017 Brier champion, but fell 7-2 in eight.

Northwest Territories’ Jamie Koe was able to take control of the game offensively in an 8-2 win over Yukon’s Thomas Scoffin, who conceded in eight ends. Draw 14 was important for the Koe rink, which needed the win to improve its record to 3-4 and create a possible three-way tie for fourth spot coming out of Pool A.

But the do-or-die situation for Nova Scotia’s Jamie Murphy against B.C., in Draw 14 sealed the fate for Kelowna skip Sean Geall and Whitehorse’s Koe.

Nova Scotia edged B.C. 8-6 in ten ends, improving its record to 4-3 to advance.

The championship pool gets underway Thursday afternoon at the Brandt Centre in Regina.

Bottcher faces Steve Laycock of Saskatchewan, Gushue plays Carruthers, Jacobs is up against Murphy while McEwen plays Epping.

For McEwen, the goal is to go win three out of the four games ahead of them Thursday and Friday.

“Not much different than if we are looking at this in December and we would look at this line-up of teams,” he said. “We need to go 3-1 against that group and we’ve done that before.”

Bottcher feel his team is set up nicely moving forward.

“Against B.C., we were down four halfway through that game so this could be a lot different conversation had we not been able to turn that one around and that’s sort of been the momentum shift for us in the week.”

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