Manitoba and Northern Ontario post Brier wins to advance to championship round

KINGSTON, Ont. — Canada’s Kevin Koe and Ontario’s John Epping posted victories Wednesday night to claim the last two spots in the championship round at the Tim Hortons Brier.

Koe defeated British Columbia’s Steve Laycock 9-3 and Epping beat Jamie Koe of the Northwest Territories 11-8 to make the eight-team cut.

Records carry over into the championship round, which continues through Friday evening at the Leon’s Centre. The top four teams from that round will qualify for the Page playoffs.

Koe (5-2) and Epping (4-3) joined Team Wild Card’s Mike McEwen (6-1) and Saskatchewan’s Matt Dunstone (6-1) as the four teams to qualify out of Pool A.

McEwen beat New Brunswick’s James Grattan 9-4 and Dunstone thumped Yukon’s Thomas Scoffin 12-3.

Manitoba’s Jason Gunnlaugson (5-2) and Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs (4-3) had afternoon wins to take the last two Pool B spots behind Alberta’s Brendan Bottcher (7-0) and Brad Gushue of Newfoundland and Labrador (6-1).

Gunnlaugson beat Nova Scotia’s Jamie Murphy 9-7 and Jacobs dumped Nunavut’s Jake Higgs 10-3.

“We knew we would have had them back again in a tiebreaker if we didn’t win and that would have been no fun,” Gunnlaugson said. “So it was good to get the win. It was a real good battle.

“They flipped the hammer a couple times and we just kept battling and got some key deuces.”

The top-ranked Jacobs, meanwhile, made the cut at 4-3. He lost three of his first four games but enters the championship round on a three-game win streak.

“We welcome every bit of adversity and hardship,” Jacobs said. “It’s the Canadian championships. It’s not supposed to be easy.”

Bottcher defeated Prince Edward Island’s Bryan Cochrane 9-6 and Gushue beat Quebec’s Alek Bedard 10-4 in afternoon play.

In the morning draw, Newfoundland and Labrador beat P.E.I. 11-8, the Northwest Territories edged New Brunswick 8-6 and B.C. topped Yukon 6-3.

Nova Scotia missed the Pool B cut at 3-4. Prince Edward Island was next at 2-5 ahead of Quebec at 1-6 and Nunavut at 0-7.

The bottom four in Pool A included New Brunswick at 3-4, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories at 2-5 and Yukon at 0-7.

The semifinal and final are set for Sunday.

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