Northwest Territories' Jamie Koe leads upsets galore at the Brier

REGINA — Disruption was the theme Monday at the Canadian men's curling championship.

Four teams posted upsets over higher seeds in the Montana's Brier, which added spice to the playoff race in Regina.

Northwest Territories Jamie Koe pulled off a curling coup by beating defending champion Brad Gushue 7-5, although the latter recovered with an 8-3 win over Jamie's older brother Kevin on Monday evening.

Northern Ontario's Trevor Bonot stole a point in an extra end in a 6-5 win over top-ranked Brendan Bottcher of Alberta.

Nova Scotia's Matthew Manuel ended host Saskatchewan's unbeaten run with a 7-4 victory over Mike McEwen.

Skip Trevor Smith threw a 96 per cent shooting-accuracy game to lead Prince Edward Island in an 8-5 victory over Alberta's Aaron Sluchinski.

Jamie Koe (4-1) defeated Nunavut at night to top Pool B at 4-1 ahead of McEwen and Smith (3-1).

"It was just a huge day," Jamie Koe said.

Koe has skipped a territories team to the playoffs once in his 16 previous Brier appearances. He went 7-6 and lost to brother Kevin in a playoff game in 2012 in Saskatoon. His current team went 1-7 last year in London, Ont.

"We had some pretty good games against some really tough teams. We were in them until late and kind of let them slip away. We learned from that," Jamie said.

Jamie ranked higher in the standings in Regina than four-time Brier champion Kevin, whose Alberta foursome fell to 1-4 in the loss to Gushue (3-2) at night. Kevin's lone win was against Jamie.

"To see what's happening with their team is really shocking right now," Jamie said. "I feel for him, but we're really focused on our own game. I'll still be cheering for him."

Manitoba's Reid Carruthers (3-0) in Pool A was the lone unbeaten team left in a field of 18. Carruthers had the day off Monday.

Bonot and Bottcher were 3-1 after Bottcher's draw for the win in the 10th against a Northern Ontario counter stopped well short of the rings.

"It's curling. Honestly, you don't expect anything. You can hope for it," Bonot said. "Things happen. It's honestly one of the reasons why we play it. It's played on ice. It's a slippery game."

The curling stones at the Brandt Centre were "papered" Sunday night. Sanding the bottom of stones to grab the ice and curl more is standard practice before and during tournaments, but Smith says that change may have contributed to a day of upsets.

"They had a bit more curl," said the P.E.I. skip. "The ice was different this morning. It's slowly getting back to where it was. I think it just caught some teams off guard, ourselves included. We were lucky we adjusted quickly."

Gushue felt his team didn't adjust in the morning loss to Jamie Koe.

"The first draw that has to use those rocks after they're sharpened, it's always a bit of a guess and you get some poor games and some missed shots," Gushue said. "Jamie and his team played really good this morning and we didn't."

After an 0-3 start, Nova Scotia's Manuel posted a much-needed, two-win day.

"We wanted today bad, so to pull it off is great," Manuel said. "We don't see ourselves as a lower seed. We just got off to a bit of a slow start and we ran into some hot teams."

The top three teams in each pool of nine Thursday advance to Friday's six-team playoff round, from which Saturday's four Page playoff teams emerge.

Tiebreaker games have been eliminated from the format. Head-to-head results followed by cumulative scores in the draw-the-button that precede each game is the tiebreaking formula.

Three losses is considered the playoff danger zone, although a team made it into the Canadian women's championship with four losses.

Manitoba's Matt Dunstone (2-1), Ontario's Scott Howard and B.C.'s Catlin Schneider (2-2), Yukon's Thomas Scoffin (1-2), New Brunswick's James Grattan (0-3) and Newfoundland and Labrador's Andrew Symonds (0-4) rounded out Pool A on Monday.

Alberta's Sluchinski and Quebec's Julien Tremblay (2-2), Manuel (2-3), Kevin Koe (1-4) and Nunavut's Shane Latimer (0-4) completed Pool B.

Sunday's winner will represent Canada at the world championship March 30 to April 7 in Schaffhausen, Switzerland and return to the 2025 Montana's Brier in Kelowna, B.C., as defending champion.

The victor also gains an Olympic trials berth in 2025 pending a top-six result at the world championship.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2024.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press