Gushue returns to the top, winning sixth Brier in Regina

It just wasn’t meant to be.

Team Saskatchewan fell 9-5 to Team Canada’s Brad Gushue rink in the Montana’s Brier final.

After a blank in the first end, Gushue sat one well-buried but with two Saskatchewan stones frozen to it. Gushue made a difficult draw to sit two with his first, prompting McEwen to throw a runback to clear things up. Still sitting one for his last, Gushue had a wide draw to score two, which was made perfectly, to take the early 2-0 lead.

The force was on for Gushue in the third end. Facing two with his last, McEwen hit and rolled in for his one, giving the hammer back to Team Canada.

McEwen attempted a long, cross-house double in the fourth to cut down Canada’s chance to score in the fourth end. After rolling out, Gushue attempted to split one of his yellow guards into the house for a score of three, giving Canada a 5-1 lead.

Facing three on his last, McEwen was forced to draw to the four-foot with his last shot in the fifth. He elected to tap a Gushue yellow rock back. Initially ticking on a yellow rock on the 12-foot instead, but was able to stop in time to score his one, trailing 5-2 heading to the fifth end break.

Saskatchewan was set up to steal in the sixth end, with two rocks either biting the button or fully covering the pin during third stones. Back-to-back draws from Colton Flasch had Saskatchewan sitting first, second, and fourth stones. McEwen’s last saw him draw to the corner of the button to sit three, all of which were fully buried. After a measurement, it was determined that Saskatchewan had stolen two points, narrowing the deficit to one.

Saskatchewan once again sat two during skip stones in the seventh end for Gushue’s last rock, but Gushue was able to make them both go away with his last, scoring two and taking a commanding 7-4 lead.

The eighth end proved difficult for Saskatchewan with the hammer, as Canada sat as many as four during skip stones. McEwen was forced to draw for a single, giving Gushue a 7-5 lead with the hammer heading to the ninth.

McEwen hogged a guard with his first in the ninth. He then attempted to draw around a Gushue stone in the eight-foot and reached the button with his last. Gushue played a runback with his last shot, scoring two and ending the Brier with a 9-5 win.

McEwen says Sunday night’s loss hurts because Saskatchewan did not play their best.

“Tough (ice) conditions, I think you could tell both teams were struggling with the ice, but Brad was stellar the first four ends,” McEwen said. “He nailed us the first four ends.”

Despite the loss, McEwen says he is incredibly proud of his team. 

“We have everything to be proud of with what we did in six months,” McEwen said. “This is a great team, and we’re not done yet.”

Meanwhile, this is Gushue’s sixth Brier title. Gushue, third Mark Nichols, lead Geoff Walker, and Alberta’s Randy Ferbey are now tied for most Brier championships. This was also a record-tying third straight Brier title for Gushue’s rink.

He says this feeling will never get old.

“This is what it’s all about; this is why I play, and this is why I love the game,” Gushue said. “I love this moment, to see it all come to fruition after the hard work this week, it’s so cool. It isn’t about how many; it’s about this moment here.”

Gushue’s rink struggled out of the gate with a 2-2 record. He says this win after a slow start is tremendously rewarding.

“To start off the week the way we did, and really we lacked confidence at the beginning of the week,” Gushue said. “It was fun to see it develop more and more as the week went on, and the ice surface was a little different out there (Sunday) night, and I think it took a little of that confidence away, but we battled through and got the win, which is awesome.”

Gushue and crew will head to the World Men’s Curling Championship in Switzerland from March 30 – April 7.

Saskatchewan has now finished in the top three teams at the Brier 12 times since its last win in 1980. This was the province’s first Brier final appearance since 1995.

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