by Al Cameron
February 3, 2014 (ISN) – It was a super Sunday for Canadian men’s curling, February 2, with four teams prevailing in provincial playdowns to qualify for the 2014 Tim Hortons Brier, March 1-9 in Kamloops at the Interior Savings Centre.
The biggest surprise of the weekend came in Smith Falls, where Glenn Howard saw his eight-year reign as Ontario champion come to an end, at the hands of Greg Balsdon from Hamilton’s Glendale Golf and Country Club.
Balsdon, with third Mark Bice, second Tyler Morgan and lead Jamie Farnell, with be making his first appearance at the Tim Hortons Brier. After scoring two in the ninth end, the Balsdon foursome stole a single in the final frame when Howard’s hit for the win crashed on a guard.
In the Newfoundland/Labrador final, Brad Gushue booked his 11th trip to the Canadian men’s championship, including the past eight consecutive years, with a 6-2 victory over Colin Thomas.
The Gushue team, including Brett Gallant, Adam Case and Geoff Walker, was undefeated in the event. The win extended the 2010 Olympic gold-medallist’s winning streak at the provincial championship to 31-0, dating back to 2010.
A familiar scenario played out in Manitoba, where Jeff Stoughton defeated Mike McEwen by an 8-3 score in the championship showdown. It marks the third time in the past five years the two have faced off in the final match.
Stoughton, representing Manitoba for an 11th time at the Canadian championship, will be joined by third Jon Mead, second Reid Carruthers and lead Mark Nichols.
In Saskatchewan, Steve Laycock downed defending champ Brock Virtue 7-6 in the final of the province’s Tankard playdowns in Shaunavon, earning a fourth appearance at the Tim Hortons Brier.
Laycock was part of the Pat Simmons team that represented Saskatchewan in 2007 and 2008, and skipped the province’s entry in 2011. He will lead teammates Kirk Muyres, Colton Flasch and Dallan Muyres at the Interior Savings Centre next month in Kamloops.
The Quebec team, skipped by Jean-Michel Ménard, was the first to book a trip to the Tim Hortons Brier. The final seven berths in the 12-team field will be decided Feb. 9 with the conclusion of playdowns in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Northern Ontario, Alberta, Yukon/Northwest Territories and British Columbia.