BRANDON, Man. — The freshest team heading into the championship pool at the Canadian men’s curling championship is Northern Ontario.
Skip Brad Jacobs, third Ryan Fry and front-end brothers E.J. and Ryan Harnden from Sault Ste. Marie were ruthlessly efficient en route to a 7-0 record in the preliminary round.
Their first four wins didn’t extend beyond eight ends. Jacobs has yet to throw a last stone for a win at the Tim Hortons Brier.
“That just goes to show how well we’re playing and how well the guys are playing in front of me,” Jacobs said Wednesday after a 10-5 doubling of Yukon that was also over after eight ends.
“Probably as fresh as we can be. I don’t think we can feel any better.”
Jacobs and company won the 2013 Brier and Olympic trials followed by an Olympic gold medal in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.
When asked this week if his rink is in the zoniest zone a Brad Jacobs team can be, the skip replied “Probably.”
In pre-game draws to the button to determine which team gets hammer in the first end, Northern Ontario won all seven games to have control from the outset.
They made the most of it scoring two or more points in the first end, or the second after a blank, every game.
“We’re going to be up against some really tough opponents going forward here,” Jacobs said. “It would be nice to continue to win the hammer, but it’s not a priority that’s for sure.
“I we don’t win hammer in some games moving forward, it’s still a 10-end game and there’s lots of shots to be made.”
The skip says he’s ready to produce a game-winning throw at the Brier when required.
“I think that time is right around the corner,” Jacobs said. “I welcome it in all honesty.
“Although it’s my job to deliver the last stone, it’s always a team effort and we welcome those moments of pressure all day long.”
The top four teams from each pool carry their records into the championship round Thursday and Friday, from which the four Page playoff teams emerge.
Ties for fourth are solved by tiebreaker games. The Page playoffs begin Saturday followed by Sunday’s final.
Jacobs, Brendan Bottcher’s wild-card team (6-1) and Saskatchewan’s Kirk Muyres and Manitoba’s Mike McEwen (4-3) advanced out of Pool A.
With a draw remaining in Pool B, Alberta’s Kevin Koe (6-0) and defending champion Brad Gushue (5-1) were already assured spots in the championship round.
B.C.’s Jim Cotter (4-2) and Ontario’s Scott McDonald and Nova Scotia’s Stuart Thompson (3-3) jockeyed for the third and fourth berths. New Brunswick’s Terry Odishaw was still in tiebreaker contention at 3-4.
Both Jacobs at skip and his team carry a tournament-leading cumulative shooting percentage of 92 per cent into the final eight.
“Brad kind of has that look in his eye right now and he had that look in his eye and the tone in his voice before we came here,” E.J. Harnden said.
“It’s one of those things playing with Brad for so many years now, you can kind of just sense it.”
When they won the Brier and Olympic gold, the Jacobs team persona was that of brash gym rats who, upon executing in big-game moments, released tension with boisterous yells and broom-shaking.
Those emotional swings can be draining over the long haul, however. Jacobs was the top playoff seed in the 2015 and 2016 Briers, but his team did not claim another title.
“We really used our emotions well in the great moments and not very well in the down moments,” Jacobs said.
“I certainly think when you’re controlling your emotions well and staying calm, it makes life a whole lot easier out there as opposed to riding the roller-coaster like we used to in the past.
“We’ve been working at this type of Zen-like calmness for this entire season. It’s nice to be just continually evolving.”