Giant killers from Northern Ontario crowned 2013 Tim Hortons Brier champions
Brad Jacobs shocks Jeff Stoughton to become youngest skip since Kevin Martin's 1991 Canadian title win
Al Hackner is only someone on an old video tape to Brad Jacobs, albeit one revered by Northern Ontario curlers.
But the 27-year-old Royal Bank account manager from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., now has something in common with the legendary Hackner, who won two Canadian men’s curling championships in the 1980s.
Jacobs became only the fifth Northern Ontario team to win the Brier, and the first since Hackner in 1985, when he shocked Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton 11-4 in front of 10,897 spectators Sunday night at Rexall Place.
“I know Al Hackner made that amazing shot, the best shot of all time, and then he ending up stealing in the extra (end) to win,” Jacobs said about Hackner’s cross-house double takeout to force an extra end against Alberta’s Pat Ryan at Moncton, N.B.
“That’s really all I know. I wasn’t even born,” he added. “It really doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. The Briers that I’ve seen are in the past 10, 15 years.”
Jacobs’ best Brier moment used to be Alberta’s Kevin Koe’s draw to the button to beat Ontario’s Glenn Howard in the 2010 final “because we were there. Unbelievable shot to win the game under those circumstances.”
That memory has now been supplanted by how exceptionally well his team of third Ryan Fry, a former Winnipegger, and the Brothers Harnden, Ryan and E.J. on the front end played during three playoff games at this Tim Hortons Brier.
“Oh my God. I don’t even know how to feel right now,” said an excited Jacobs, who become the youngest Brier champ since Kevin Martin in 1991. “Really overwhelming what’s going on. I’m so proud of the guys for throwing the way they did.
“Phenomenal. We’re Brier champs. It’s a dream come true. This is what we wanted ever since we were kids.”
Jacob’s rink was at a crossroads during the round robin after losing to Saskatchewan on Thursday morning to have their record fall to 5-3.
“When we beat Manitoba (9-4) in the round robin, when our backs were against the wall, that was the turning point to our Brier,” Jacobs said about Northern Ontario’s next game that night. “We put on a massive performance and got ourselves to 6-3.”
After finishing 8-3 to tie Manitoba and Newfoundland’s Brad Gushue for second place, Northern Ontario breezed through the playoffs, becoming only the second team to win the championship while coming out of the Page Playoff 3-4 game.
“We played amazing throughout these playoffs,” Jacobs said. “We were the underdogs the whole way. We never had hammer. To come out and do what we did is just phenomenal.”
The Northern Ontario rink shot an amazing 95 per cent in the final (including 100 per cent by Ryan Harnden and 99 by E.J.) after also shooting 91 per cent as a team in a 6-5, extra-end Page Playoff 3-4 victory over Gushue on Saturday night and 90 per cent in the 9-7 semifinal upset of Howard on Sunday morning.
“They’re the up-and-comers for the game,” Howard said afterwards. “It’s a pleasure to watch, a pleasure to play against them, just great guys. Brad is unbelievable.”
“It’s been too long for Northern Ontario without that Tankard,” Jacobs said. “Just to bring this back to Northern Ontario, back to Sault Ste. Marie means the world to us.”
This was supposed to be a Brier with an incredible field of experienced teams, including three of the greatest skips to ever play the game — Howard, Stoughton and Alberta’s Kevin Martin. But Martin didn’t make the playoffs and Jacobs eliminated both Stoughton and Howard in the playoffs, as well as Gushue.
“We’ve proved ourselves up to now this week,” Jacobs said before the final. “This is one of the best Brier fields ever and we’re playing with them all.”
Make that better than them all at the end of the week. Jacobs will be representing Canada in the world championship March 30-April 7 at Victoria.
Stoughton, who had previously won the final each time he also won the Page 1-2 game, was trying to capture his second title in Edmonton and become only the fourth skip to win four Briers, while Howard was trying to finish off one of his team’s best-ever performances at the Canadian championship.
But Jacobs’ rink made absolutely everything against Stoughton in the first couple of ends to steal three points. After Stoughton got two back in the third end, Jacobs picked out a Manitoba rock in the four-foot to score three for a 6-2 lead after four ends.
“The first end was tough. We missed three doubles in a row. My first one came up a foot light and then it didn’t curl on my second one,” said Stoughton. “A disappointing start because you’ve got to make a few doubles at the start and it didn’t happen in the first end. Then the second end was the same thing.
“I’m disappointed just because the crowd came here to see a great game and we certainly didn’t give them a great game,” he added. “That’s the most disappointing part, not giving anyone a go for it at all. It was gift-wrapped.”
After Jacobs got another deuce in the sixth end for an 8-4 lead, it was just a matter of time before Stoughton would throw his trademark spin-a-rama shot twice in the ninth end before shaking hands.
Even though it was only Jacobs’ fifth Brier and his previous playoff experience was losing the Page 1-2 game and the semifinal in 2010, it didn’t hurt that the rink felt it had nothing to lose because of the legendary curlers it was playing.
Jacobs also had a 3-1 record against Stoughton this season, so he knew they could beat the Manitoba representatives if his team played well.
Earlier in the playoffs, Howard lost the Page 1-2 game 7-6 to Stoughton, who scored three in the 10th end to scramble from behind for an unexpected victory.
In the Page 3-4 game, Gushue’s loss to Jacobs dropped his disappointing playoff record over 10 Briers to 1-8. Gushue also lost the bronze-medal game 7-6 in an extra end to Howard.
EXTRA ENDS: The Brier’s overall attendance of 190,113 fell short of the local organizing committee’s break-even goal of 200,000, but it’s still the eighth-highest crowd count of all time.
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Northern Ontario’s Ryan Fry, left, and E.J. Harnden, celebrate after they beat Manitoba in the final to win the at the Tim Hortons 2013 brier at Rexall Place in Edmonton, March 10, 2013. (Bruce Edwards/Edmonton Journal)
Photograph by: Bruce Edwards, Bruce Edwards