Gushue rink nabs second-straight Brier

The Canadian Press
Donna Spencer

REGINA–It took Brad Gushue several years to win his first Canadian men’s curling championship.
His second didn’t take nearly as long.
Gushue downed Alberta’s Brendan Bottcher 6-4 in last night’s final for a second-straight Canadian title.
Gushue, third Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant, and lead Geoff Walker now will wear the Maple Leaf at the men’s world championship in Las Vegas from March 31-April 8.
Up 5-4 coming home with hammer and an Alberta stone on the four-foot rings, Gushue had thrown just one draw in the game.
But he coolly drew the button to win the Tim Hortons Brier.
“Felt really good on the throw,” Gushue said.
“Obviously, Brett and Geoff sweeping that, you just can’t throw heavy and they judged it to perfection.”
They’re the first team to win back-to-back Briers since Kevin Martin in 2008-09.
Gushue won his first Brier in 2017 after 13 tries and a pair of runner-up results.
After near-misses for the championship, the pressure on him to win in his hometown of St. John’s N.L. last year was immense.
The team felt it in the form of stress and sleepless nights.
There was little tension in their game in Regina. Gushue’s team out of the Bally Hally Curling Club shot 91 percent in the tournament and lost only one game in the preliminary round to Alberta.
“There were so many emotions last year winning at home,” Gushue noted. “This year, I felt like we were really in control of ourselves the whole week.
“Even drawing the button I felt confident.
“These are definitely different feelings and different wins, but both are real special,” he added.
Curling Canada changed the format of the national men’s and women’s championships this year to accommodate 16 teams in each.
So the semi-final was played earlier yesterday instead of on Saturday.
Bottcher beat Ontario’s John Epping 6-4 to earn a showdown with Gushue.
Bottcher went 3-8 in their Brier debut last year so the Edmonton team wasn’t counted among the favourites to win it.
But they twice beat 2013 champion Brad Jacobs of Northern Ontario en route to the final.
“I just think it proves we belong,” said Bottcher.
“You never know how many cracks you’re going to get at a Brier so in that sense I’m disappointed, but I’m so proud of myself and the guys,” he added.
“Hopefully, we can take this experience and grow, and have a better showing [in] years to come.”
Gushue’s win yesterday was his 123rd all-time at the Brier.
Earlier in the tournament, the 37-year-old passed Russ Howard and Martin tied at 113.
And in a nod to history, the only other team from Newfoundland to win a Brier was Jack MacDuff in Regina in 1976.
Gushue went undefeated en route to winning last year’s world title in Edmonton.
The last Canadian team to repeat as men’s world champions was Randy Ferbey in 2002-03.
The United States is hosting the men’s championship for the first time since 2008 when it was in Grand Forks, N.D.
But Las Vegas, where the average high in April is 27 degrees C, means the Gushue team may be the first at a world curling championship to tan by the pool between draws.
“I need a tan so I’m looking forward to it,” the skip quipped.
“I need some colour after a long winter.”
The sport’s profile in the U.S. rose dramatically with John Shuster’s team winning the country’s first Olympic gold medal in Pyeongchang.