CALGARY — Wild Card Two's Kevin Koe defeated Wild Card Three's Wayne Middaugh 7-6 on Saturday night to earn a direct berth into the final of the Canadian men's curling championship.
Koe's Alberta-based team secured the first seed in the eight-team championship pool at 10-2.
Saskatchewan's Matt Dunstone and Alberta's Brendan Bottcher also posted evening victories to qualify for the three-team playoff at 9-3. They'll meet in a semifinal Sunday afternoon at the Markin MacPhail Centre with the winner to meet Koe in the evening final.
Dunstone beat Manitoba's Jason Gunnlaugson 9-6 and Bottcher dumped Canada's Brad Gushue 8-2.
Koe is looking to win his fifth Tim Hortons Brier title as a skip, which would give him sole possession of a record he shares with Ernie Richardson, Randy Ferbey and Kevin Martin.
Bottcher has made the last three Brier finals and settled for silver each time. Dunstone finished third in last year's playoff.
Middaugh could only get two points on a double takeout attempt in the 10th end. A third point would have forced an extra end.
Instead his remarkable run ended with an 8-4 record. Originally tabbed as an alternate, Middaugh switched positions with injured skip Glenn Howard and threw fourth stones in his first competitive event in over five years.
Gushue also missed the cut at 8-4.
Northern Ontario's Brad Jacobs defeated Ontario's John Epping 9-3 in the other night game to leave both teams at 7-5. Gunnlaugson finished at 6-6.
Earlier in the day, Koe dumped Gunnlaugson 12-4 and Middaugh dropped a 6-3 decision to Gushue to create a four-way tie for second place entering evening play. Dunstone edged Jacobs 5-4 and Bottcher topped Epping 8-3.
Wild Card Three was caught off guard by the sanding of rocks before the afternoon draw.
Howard planned to protest after not being told about the papering beforehand. Some players learned of the sanding by talking to the ice crew but not everyone was aware.
Freshly sanded stones have a significant effect on a rock's curl and speed.
Curling Canada admitted that teams were not formally informed due to a regrettable "communication breakdown." The federation said it will "review its procedures going forward."
Jacobs and Gunnlaugson knew they would miss the cut after the afternoon draw.
A variety of tiebreaker scenarios were still in play entering the evening. Late night and early morning tiebreakers were a possibility along with a double semifinal in the event of a four-way tie for first place.
Gushue won the Brier last year in Kingston, Ont. He has won the national title three times in the last four years.
The Brier winner will represent Canada at the world men's curling championship next month in the same Canada Olympic Park venue.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 13, 2021.
The Canadian Press