Team Koe plays patient hand at 2019 Home Hardware Canada Cup

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Throughout his career, it’s been no secret that Kevin Koe operates with nerves of steel.

He proved it again in Thursday night’s Draw 6 at the 2019 Home Hardware Canada Cup, presented by Pioneer.

Starting the game without hammer, playing against an undefeated team and with only 8:32 left on the clock at the start of the eighth end, Koe broke open a tight defensive game with a deuce in eight  en route to a 5-3 win over Edmonton’s Brendan Bottcher.

In other Draw 6 action Thursday evening at the Sobeys Arena: John Epping (3-1; Toronto) beat Brad Jacobs (2-2; Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.) 9-4; Tracy Fleury (3-1; East St. Paul, Man.) took out Kerri Einarson (2-2; Gimli, Man.) 8-3; Jennifer Jones (2-2; Winnipeg) trimmed Chelsea Carey (2-2; Calgary) 10-7 and Brad Gushue (2-2; St. John’s, N.L.) edged Glenn Howard (2-2; Penetanguishine, Ont.) 4-3.

Heading into Friday’s last day of round-robin action, Koe’s win created a three-way tie at 3-1 with Bottcher and Epping.

“It was a grind early,” said Koe, whose team includes third B.J. Neufeld, second Colton Flasch, lead Ben Hebert and coach John Dunn.

“They had us in heat in the early ends. Seven, eight, nine, 10, we played four perfect ends. It felt like we were struggling to get any points against them.”

And when it was over, Koe had 1:48 left on the clock. Somehow, the Calgary skip beat the odds in this Battle of Alberta matchup against Bottcher.

“This is our biggest event of the year and for some reason we seem to have real close games with him,” said Koe, who beat Bottcher in the 2019 Tim Hortons Brier final. “It always comes down to last rock, it seems.

“We seem to play him in a lot of big games. Briers, Slam finals, Canada Cup, provincials. Knowing it was a big game, coming off a disappointing loss this afternoon, to bounce back, he was undefeated.”

Heading into the last day of round-robin play and coming off the huge win has put Team Koe on the inside track to secure a playoff spot.

“I love our record,” said Koe. “Have we played our best curling yet? I don’t know. Probably not. Some sheets have been different and there’s been a few misses. We’re in a good spot. Whoever’s playing the best is going to get the win. We’re probably not there yet, but we’re close.”

On the women’s side, Fleury’s win moved her team to 3-1 and a first-place tie with Ottawa’s Rachel Homan.

“It feels great,” said Fleury, whose three wins matched her career wins total from previous editions of the Home Hardware Canada Cup. “We have a good handle on the ice and we’ve been fairly consistent game to game. It’s so tough that even if you’re a little bit off, you can lose a game. You’ve got to be sharp and focus on every shot.”

The 2019 Home Hardware Canada Cup continues with draws Friday at 9 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (all times MST).