CALGARY — Brendan Bottcher won curling's version of the Battle of Alberta on Sunday night at the Canadian men's curling championship.
The Alberta skip defeated Wild Card Two's Kevin Koe 4-2 to win his first Tim Hortons Brier title.
Bottcher sat three in the 10th end and Koe conceded when he didn't have any options to score two for the tie. Bottcher made it to the last three Brier finals but settled for silver each time.
"Those three years were tough, each one of them for different reasons," he said. "But it just makes tonight so much more special that we persevered and we worked so hard."
Koe was trying to win a record fifth Brier title as a skip.
The teams blanked five of the first six ends, with Alberta forcing Wild Card Two to a single in the third.
The game finally opened up in the seventh end as Koe flashed a stone after it picked. He missed a double-takeout to set up Bottcher for a draw for three.
Bottcher kept the pressure on by forcing Koe to make a tough double-takeout against five to salvage a single. In the ninth, Bottcher missed a double for two and settled for one point.
Down two with hammer, Koe, B.J. Neufeld, John Morris and Ben Hebert were unable to build the end they wanted for the necessary pair to force an extra.
"We just didn't take advantage," Koe said. "They had two misses in 10 and we should have been able to come out of that with at least a deuce. Capitalizing on your opportunities when there isn't many out there (is key)."
After Koe conceded, Bottcher and teammates Darren Moulding, Brad Thiessen and Karrick Martin enjoyed a celebratory team hug by the side of the sheet in the spectator-free Markin MacPhail Centre.
The Brier was the second of seven competitions to be held in the Canada Olympic Park bubble. The Canadian women's championship kicked things off last month.
Earlier in the day, Bottcher hit a game-winning angle-raise for a 6-5 semifinal win over Saskatchewan's Matt Dunstone.
Bottcher removed the Saskatchewan stone from the button and stuck around to score two points for the victory.
"Obviously it was a super-difficult shot," Bottcher said. "But those are the moments we're playing for, for those kind of shots."
Koe, from Calgary, defeated Bottcher in the 2019 final. He represented Alberta that year and Bottcher's Edmonton-based side was Team Wild Card.
The field was expanded from 16 to 18 teams for this season to accommodate teams that didn’t get a chance to compete in provincial/territorial playdowns due to the pandemic.
Bottcher was selected to represent Alberta and Koe got the second of three wild-card entries based on the Canadian rankings.
Koe finished first in the championship pool with a 10-2 record. Dunstone and Bottcher were next at 9-3.
Dunstone was hoping to reach his first career Brier final after winning bronze last year.
"There's nothing to hang our heads about," he said. "It was a world-class game. They played awesome and we played awesome.
"The curling gods were wearing a blue sweater today. That's all there is to it. It totally stinks but this isn't the end of us."
The last Saskatchewan team to win the Brier was skipped by Rick Folk in 1980.
Koe remains tied with Ernie Richardson, Randy Ferbey and Kevin Martin with four Brier wins as a skip.
Koe was trying to become the first hometown winner since Brad Gushue won in St. John's, N.L., in 2017. Gushue defended his crown the following year and also won last season.
Bottcher will represent Canada at the April 2-11 world men's curling championship in the same venue.
His team already has a berth in the Olympic Trials in November so the spot will be made available at a pre-trials event this fall.
Bottcher's rink earned $100,000 of the $300,000 total purse. Koe's team earned $60,000 for the silver.
Bottcher was named the winner of the Ross Harstone sportsmanship award earlier in the day. Thiessen was named a first-team all-star along with Gushue, Saskatchewan third Braeden Moskowy and Wild Card Two lead Ben Hebert.
Koe was named to the second-team all-star list with Neufeld at third, Canada second Brett Gallant and Northern Ontario lead Ryan Harnden.
Manitoba-based Kerri Einarson is the reigning Scotties Tournament of Hearts champion.
She'll represent Canada at the April 30-May 9 world women's curling championship. That event is slated to be the seventh and final event in the Canada Olympic Park hub.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 14, 2021.
The Canadian Press