Koe back in the winner’s circle

The Canadian Press
Donna Spencer

BRANDON, Man.–For Kevin Koe and Ben Hebert, winning the Canadian men’s curling championship a year after missing the medals at the Winter Olympics felt sweet.
Koe scored two points for the win with his final throw last night to edge Brendan Bottcher’s wild-card team 4-3 in an all-Alberta final.
There were 13 seconds left on Alberta’s shot clock when Koe released his final stone.
“It’s awesome, especially a nail-biter like that,” Koe said.
With previous victories in 2010, 2014, and 216, Koe joined Randy Ferbey, Kevin Martin, and Ernie Richardson among skips who have won four national titles.
And the 44-year-old has done it with at least one different player in his lineup each time.
Hebert hoisted the Tankard trophy a second time as Koe’s lead. He also won it twice with Martin in 2008 and 2009.
It was the first Canadian championship for vice-skip B.J. Neufeld and second Colton Flasch. They joined Koe prior to this season and appeared in their first Brier final.
They now will represent Canada at the men’s world curling championship from March 30-April 7 in Lethbridge, Alta.
Koe also earned a return trip to the 2020 Tim Hortons Brier in Kingston, Ont. as Team Canada.
Koe, Marc Kennedy, Brent Laing, and Hebert did not compete in last year’s Alberta playdowns to prepare for the Winter Olympics, where they finished fourth.
“A pretty low point coming back from the Olympics and not winning a medal,” Koe admitted.
“I’m not going to lie. It sucked not getting a medal,” he reiterated.
“It was probably a low point but obviously this is better.”
Koe recruited Neufeld and Flasch when Kennedy took a step back from curling and Laing joined John Epping’s team.
“I’m really proud of Colton and B.J. and really happy for them, but also for Kevin,” Hebert said.
“He’s still a star, man. He’s so good it’s gross.
“After what happened last year at the Olympics for us, this was a nice little point me and him proved,” Hebert added.
“The other two guys left and we’re back here doing it again with two new guys.”
The Glencoe Club foursome from Calgary went undefeated in Brandon at 13-0.
Alberta’s Martin (2008-09), Ferbey (2003), and Pat Ryan (1988) are the only other teams to run the table since playoffs were introduced in 1980.
Eliminated in the provincial semi-final by Koe, Edmonton’s Bottcher beat Epping in a win-and-get-in game prior to the main draw to gain entry as the wild-card team.
Bottcher represented Alberta in last year’s Brier, when he lost in the final to Brad Gushue in Regina.
“I think if we stick with it, we’re going to win this eventually,” Bottcher said.
Neufeld, the team’s import player from Winnipeg, joined his father, Chris, as a Brier winner.
Chris Neufeld was a member of Manitoba’s championship team skipped by Vic Peters back in 1992.
“Ever since I was a kid watching my dad curl and watching him win the Brier in’92, that really drove me to want to do this, really push myself as an athlete to be as good as I could be and help make a team great,” Neufeld said.
“It means the world.
“It obviously hasn’t sunk in yet,” he added. “I’ve watched a lot of teams celebrate in front of me. It’s nice to be on the other end of that.”
Bottcher stole a point in the ninth for a 3-2 lead when Koe’s shooter on a hit at the back of the house spun just wide.
Bottcher drew into the rings to lay two in the 10th, but left a possible double takeout for Koe to score two for the win.
Koe hit and rolled with his shooter, bumping the second stone just enough for the deuce.
“I threw a little less weight than I probably wanted but I’ve got some of the best sweepers out there,” he noted.
Alberta led 2-0 at the fifth-end break, scoring one with hammer in the second and stealing a point in the fourth.
Koe’s big-weight hits stifled Bottcher’s attempts to set up a deuce until the eighth, when the Koe missed a double.
Bottcher hit for two to pull even.