By DONNA SPENCER
THE CANADIAN PRESS
Saturday, March 10, 2018
REGINA -- If Brad Gushue doesn't seem as if he's feeling pressure at the Canadian men's curling championship, that's because he isn't compared with a year ago.
The skip was under a relentless spotlight in his hometown of St. John's, Nfld., as he tried to win his first national title after multiple tries and near misses.
Gushue, third Mark Nichols and front end Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker produced the storybook ending by winning the Tim Hortons Brier at Mile One Centre.
Gushue and Nichols won Olympic gold in 2006, but the 37year-old Gushue says nothing in his curling career felt as stressful as trying to win that breakthrough Brier at home.
"As much as I loved the experience, if someone asked me if I want to do it again, I'd have to think long and hard," he said on Friday. "Unless they told me we'd win, I wouldn't do it again."
So wearing the red and white as defending champion this year in Regina, and attempting to become the first repeat winner since Kevin Martin in 2008 and 2009, hasn't felt like a heavy assignment.
"A lot less stressed, a lot less nervous. Eating better, sleeping better, everything's better," Gushue said.
Gushue's rink improved their playoff position on Friday with a 5-3 win over another tournament heavyweight, Brad Jacobs of Northern Ontario.
At 9-1 with a draw remaining in the championship round, Gushue and company were assured a berth in Saturday's playoff game between the top two seeds.
The winner of that game advances directly to Sunday's championship game. The loser drops to the Sunday morning semi-final to take on the winner of Saturday's playoff between the third and fourth seeds.
Ontario's John Epping (9-1) and Jacobs (8-2) were also playoff-bound with their ranking to be determined in the evening draw.
Epping's 9-7 win over Alberta's Brendan Bottcher (7-3) kept the fourth and final playoff berth on the table.
The wild-card team skipped by Mike McEwen (6-4) needed both a win over Manitoba's Reid Carruthers and an Alberta loss to get into a tiebreaker game for fourth.
Carruthers and Saskatchewan's Steve Laycock were eliminated from contention with their fifth losses on Friday.