Defending champion Gushue wins opening game at Tim Horton’s Brier

Defending champion Brad Gushue picked up where he left off at the Canadian men’s curling championship with an opening win Friday night in London, Ontario.

British Columbia’s Jacques Gauthier got him to earn it.

Gushue held off the 2020 junior world champion 6-5 in a back-and-forth round robin opening game at Budweiser Gardens.

“I thought we called a good game and managed it reasonably well,” Gushue said. “We just didn’t do as well as we should have.”

Gushue from St. John’s, NL, still delivered when it counted. He earned a steal after pulling all the way to the button in the ninth end and capped the win by holding Gauthier to a single in the 10th.

“We held them to the end,” said Gauthier, a 24-year-old Brier rookie. “I couldn’t be prouder of how the boys played. There were a few shots here and there that I personally would like to have back.

“But we kept it in until the end and that’s all you can ask for.”

Gushue has won the Tim Hortons Brier four times in the last six years. His Brier win last season at Lethbridge, Alta was sandwiched by Olympic bronze and world silver.

Gauthier played like a veteran and challenged the Newfoundland and Labrador team.

He showed form in the opening end with a freeze on the button that helped generate a single. Gauthier followed with a vengeance but went wide with a tap attempt in the third that earned Gushue a two-point steal.

The teams then traded singles until the eighth end.

It was Gushue’s first competitive game in about seven weeks. His team didn’t have to play any playdowns in the provinces as they had an automatic entry from Brier as the defending champion.

CLOCK | Gushue, Hebert join That Curling Show for a preview of this year’s Brier:

Brier preview with Brad Gushue and Ben Hebert, plus a special announcement from Colin Hodgson

Hosts Devin Heroux and Colleen Jones preview the 2023 Brier with Champion Skip Brad Gushue and Team Bottcher leading Ben Hebert, Colin Hodgson makes a special announcement and Scotties Champion Kerri Einarson comes in fresh from her fourth straight title.

Winnipeg resident Mike McEwen enjoyed a little affection from the home team in a 13-2 win over Quebec’s Felix Asselin. It was the first time McEwen wore the Ontario colors in the Brier.

“It feels weird wearing black and red,” McEwen said. “It’s exciting to have the support of the crowd. I think the more games we can win, the more that’s encouraged.”

In other games, the Wild Card 1 team, skipped by Brendan Bottcher, dropped Prince Edward Island’s Tyler Smith 8-2. Karsten Sturmay’s Wild Card 3 Rink defeated New Brunswick’s Scott Jones 7-3.

“We’ve been looking forward to the Brier all year, especially the last few weeks before coming here,” said Bottcher. “It’s nice to come out and win, but more importantly to play well.”

A male curler places his right hand on the ice and stares forward with his left knee bent after throwing a rock.
Wild Card Team 1 skip Brendan Bottcher throws a rock during an 8-2 win over Prince Edward Island on Friday in London, Ontario. (Geoff Robins/The Canadian Press)

Two draws are scheduled for Saturday before the competition is pushed back to three draw days until Thursday. The playoffs begin on March 10th and the finals are scheduled for March 12th.

Alberta’s Kevin Koe, Manitoba’s Matt Dunstone and Wild Card 2’s Reid Carruthers are some of the other event headliners.

The Brier winner will represent Canada at the Men’s Curling World Championships April 1-9 in Ottawa.

London last hosted the Brier in 2011 when Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton defeated Ontario’s Glenn Howard in the final. The southwestern Ontario city, about 200 kilometers west of Toronto, also hosted the 1974 Playdowns.

Kerri Einarson won the Canadian Women’s Championship in Kamloops, BC last week. Their Manitoba-based team will wear the Maple Leaf at the Women’s World Cup Playdowns March 18-26 in Sandviken, Sweden.

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