Team Canada skip Brendan Bottcher, bottom, directs his teammates as Team Wild Card Two skip Matt Dunstone looks on at the Tim Hortons Brier in Lethbridge, Alta., Wednesday, March 9, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Wild Card Two vice-skip Moskowy weighs in on trials absence and strong start at Brier

Wild Card Two vice-skip Moskowy weighs in on trials absence and strong start at Brier

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — An unexpected withdrawal on the eve of Canada’s Olympic trials forced Braeden Moskowy to watch from home as his team fell well short of qualification.

Citing “personal reasons” for the decision, Moskowy was replaced by Colton Lott and the foursome, skipped by Matt Dunstone, opened with five straight losses en route to a 3-5 mark. Moskowy has since returned to the lineup and helped the Wild Card Two entry to an impressive 6-1 round-robin record at the Tim Hortons Brier.

“It’s good to be back and I’m just so grateful to be on this team with these guys,” Moskowy said. “It’s a blast being back out there with them, that’s for sure.”

Dunstone missed a chance to clinch first place in Pool A on Wednesday by dropping an 8-7 decision to Canada’s Brendan Bottcher (6-0). The only other unbeaten rink in the 18-team field, Brad Gushue (6-0) of Wild Card One, defeated Nova Scotia’s Paul Flemming 10-4.

In a surprise mid-November announcement, Team Dunstone said it was making a lineup change without providing further details on Moskowy’s absence. The personal reasons cited in the team statement have not been publicly disclosed.

Moskowy said he sat down with his teammates before the Saskatoon trials — the biggest competition on the domestic curling calendar, and in his home province to boot — to let them know he would not be participating.

“Mentally, physically, it was a tough week,” he said. “I had some stuff going on. It wasn’t just the trials. I had to miss an event before (that) and it was two separate reasons. So I had some stuff going on and wasn’t able to play.

“But in the grand scheme of things, if you look around at what’s going on in the world, it’s just another curling event. I’m happy to be back.”

Speaking after the morning draw at the Enmax Centre, Moskowy — who has thrown at a steady 86-per cent clip this week — was asked whether using an umbrella term like “personal reasons” raised any concerns from those around him.

“To be honest with you, at the time, I didn’t know exactly what was going on myself,” he said. “So it was a personal thing. Whether it’s health or whatever is going on in your life, we’re just amateur curlers at the end of the day. There’s stuff that goes on outside the rink and we have everyday lives too.

“So it was I guess when you say personal, it’s something that you don’t really want to talk about. It’s private. My friends, my family, Curling Canada, Sportsnet, the people that matter, they know what’s going on and that’s all that matters to me.”

The 31-year-old Regina native said it was “tough not being there,” since the team had worked so hard to peak for the trials.

“That’s what sucked the most for me was these guys had to go there without me and that just wasn’t fair to them,” he said. “But sometimes in life, things happen. You brush it off and you move on. So that’s what I’m doing.”

Gushue won the trials and went on to earn a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics. Jennifer Jones skipped Canada in the women’s team event but did not make the podium.

Dunstone was down one in the 10th against Bottcher on Wednesday but couldn’t build the end for a game-winning deuce. A soft tap for a single forced an extra end and Bottcher wasn’t threatened from there, sealing the win with a nose hit.

“That was a battle,” Bottcher said. “I think it came down to (the fact) we managed the scoreboard and had hammer in the extra end. That was really the difference.”

Round-robin play continues through Thursday night with the top three teams in each pool advancing to the playoffs. Bottcher and Gushue secured playoff berths with their latest victories.

In the morning draw, Ontario’s Glenn Howard topped Nathan Young of Newfoundland and Labrador 7-3 and New Brunswick’s James Grattan defeated Prince Edward Island’s Tyler Smith 9-3. Saskatchewan’s Colton Flasch dumped Yukon’s Thomas Scoffin 12-3.

In the afternoon, Manitoba’s Mike McEwen defeated Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs 8-6. British Columbia’s Brent Pierce beat Quebec’s Michael Fournier 11-5 and Wild Card Three’s Jason Gunnlaugson hammered Nunavut’s Peter Mackey 10-1.

An evening draw was scheduled for later Wednesday.

The final is set for Sunday. The winner will represent Canada at the April 2-10 world men’s curling championship in Las Vegas.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 9, 2022.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press