LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — Brad Jacobs couldn’t get out of the Enmax Centre fast enough after a blowout loss to Saskatchewan’s Colton Flasch ended his Tim Hortons Brier playoff hopes on Friday.
Jacobs went straight to the locker room after the 10-3 defeat, put on his regular clothes and emerged later with a small rolling suitcase. He took a few quick media questions before leaving the arena, his Brier drought extended to nine years.
“I’m pretty frustrated,” Jacobs said. “That was just a really poor performance and not like us, that’s for sure.”
More was expected from the 2014 Olympic champion and world’s fifth-ranked team. A 6-2 round-robin showing gave Jacobs the No. 2 seed out of Pool B but he was flat against Flasch, who beat Wild Card Two’s Matt Dunstone in a tiebreaker earlier in the day.
Flasch opened with a deuce and took advantage of a Northern Ontario error in the fourth end. Jacobs picked out his own stone to give Flasch a draw for four that put the game out of reach.
“You’ve got to hand it to them,” Jacobs said. “I didn’t think they had that type of game in them quite frankly. I was waiting for them to give us chances like they gave Dunstone a million times, but they didn’t.”
Flasch threw at a 95-per cent clip while the Northern Ontario back end struggled. Jacobs was a game-low 59 per cent and vice Marc Kennedy was only slightly better at 66 per cent.
Northern Ontario conceded the game after only seven ends.
“We knew they were going to put lots of rocks in play and we had to be sharp,” Flasch said. “We certainly were.”
Canada’s Brendan Bottcher knocked out Wild Card Three’s Jason Gunnlaugson 7-3 in the other crossover playoff game. That set up a weekend final four of Bottcher, Flasch, Alberta’s Kevin Koe and unbeaten Brad Gushue of Wild Card One.
“We’ve had a lot of really close battles against Gunner so I was expecting it to be a close game,” Bottcher said. “Luckily we got a couple breaks and we were able to blow it out.”
Gunnlaugson, known for his hitting skills, was slightly off in the afternoon game and it proved costly. He missed a double-takeout in the fourth end that let Bottcher draw for three and a lead he wouldn’t relinquish.
“There’s a reason why these guys have been in the final four straight years,” said Gunnlaugson, who beat Manitoba’s Mike McEwen 9-3 in a morning tiebreaker. “They’re pretty good.”
Gushue will have to play on without his third Mark Nichols, who was forced to withdraw from the tournament after testing positive for COVID-19. Team Gushue will finish its tournament as a trio now.
An expanded six-team playoff format is being used this season. The winners of the Friday evening games — Flasch meets Koe and Gushue plays Bottcher — advance to the Page playoff 1-2 game Saturday while the losers meet in the 3-4 game.
The 1-2 Page winner goes directly to Sunday night’s final. The 1-2 loser plays the 3-4 winner in the semifinal earlier that day.
Bottcher beat Koe for his first national men’s curling title last season in the Calgary bubble. This year’s Brier winner will represent Canada at the April 2-10 world men’s curling championship in Las Vegas.
Kerri Einarson won her third straight Scotties Tournament of Hearts title last month in Thunder Bay, Ont. She will wear the Maple Leaf at the March 19-27 women’s world playdowns in Prince George, B.C.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 11, 2022.
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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press