Gushue defeats defending champ Bottcher in Brier semifinals, faces Koe in final

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Brad Gushue’s shorthanded Wild Card One team delivered one of their best Tim Hortons Brier performances on Sunday afternoon to secure a spot in the championship final against Alberta’s Kevin Koe.

Throwing an impressive 95% overall despite being down to three men, Gushue won a 9-3 semi-final against Canadian Brendan Bottcher.

Gushue had a hit for three in the seventh end and sealed the victory by stealing a pair in the eighth.

“I’m on vapors right now,” Gushue said. “Like I said all week, I felt tired. Now I find just enough [strength]. We have one game left. There’s enough energy that we’ll go play a game and give 110 per cent.”

Gushue, Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker won Olympic bronze last month in Beijing. They went 8-0 in the round robin at the Enmax Center and have gone 2-1 since Nichols pulled out of the event after testing positive for COVID-19.

Calgary’s Koe will be looking for a record fifth career Brier title as captain. His lineup includes BJ Neufeld, John Morris and Ben Hebert. Gushue, meanwhile, will be looking to win a fourth national title in the past six years.

Koe, who lost last year’s final in the Calgary bubble, beat Bottcher in Page’s 1-2 playoff game on Saturday night to secure a direct spot in the final. Gushue defeated Saskatchewan’s Colton Flasch in the Page playoffs 3-4.

Both teams focused on defense at the start of the semi-final.

Gushue tied under a center guard in the fourth end to force Bottcher to single for a 2-1 lead. Bottcher went wide with a comeback in the fifth end to give Gushue a three-point tie.

“I was a little surprised at Brendan’s strategy in letting us stay close early,” Gushue said. “Fortunately for us, he was the one who blinked at the start of the game and allowed a three.”

Canada’s captain took a bad break in the sixth end when his stone picked up, but he followed with a double out to save a single.

Bottcher was light with his last shot in the seventh and Gushue took advantage for another three innings.

“We just came out and didn’t bring our ‘A’ game today,” said Bottcher, who shot a low 69%.

The Canadian team shot 79 percent overall.

The Brier champions will earn $108,000 of the $300,000 total purse for the 18-team event. The second-place team will receive $60,000 and Bottcher’s rink claimed $40,000.

The winner will also represent Canada at the World Men’s Curling Championship from April 2-10.

Kerri Einarson won her third straight Scotties Tournament of Hearts title last month. She will wear the maple leaf at the world women’s curling championship March 19-27 in Prince George, British Columbia.

The 2023 Brier will be played at Budweiser Gardens in London, Ontario.

WATCH l The Canadian wheelchair curling team after their battle for bronze:

That Curling Show: The Canadian wheelchair curling team after their battle for bronze

Canada wins its 2nd consecutive bronze medal in wheelchair curling, continuing its streak of never missing a Paralympic podium. 40:51

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