No Repeat: Sochi champs Team Jacobs eliminated from playoff contention at Trials

By The Canadian Press
December 7, 2017 - 10:00am

OTTAWA — The reigning Olympic men's curling champions were perfect at the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings the last time around.

The 2017 Trials were far less kind to Brad Jacobs and his team from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

Chances of a repeat appearance at the Winter Games were dashed Thursday at Canadian Tire Centre. Jacobs essentially sealed his fate when he dropped a 9-5 decision to Reid Carruthers in the morning.

Formal elimination from playoff contention came in the evening when Brad Gushue beat Steve Laycock 8-5.

"It's a big surprise, it's an incredible surprise," said Team Jacobs coach Caleb Flaxey. "We didn't expect to be in this situation."

Calgary's Kevin Koe (7-0) booked a spot in the men's final with a 7-4 victory over John Morris in the afternoon. Calgary's Chelsea Carey (6-0) is guaranteed no worse than a tiebreaker appearance after a 9-8 win over Julie Tippin.

The top three rinks in the nine-team fields make the playoffs.

Gushue, from St. John's, N.L., moved into second place at 5-2. Jacobs (3-4) beat Mike McEwen 6-3 in the nightcap to send the Winnipeg skip into a third-place tie with Carruthers at 4-3. 

Edmonton's Brendan Bottcher (3-3) was also in the mix after edging Toronto's John Epping 7-6 in an extra end. Laycock, from Saskatoon, fell to 2-5 and is out along with Morris (1-5), from Vernon, B.C., and Epping (1-6). 

Carey gave up a four-point second end to Tippin but chipped away at the deficit, eventually stealing three points in the 10th for the win.

"Definitely lucky to pull that one out but we'll take it," Carey said.

A visibly frustrated Tippin, from Woodstock, Ont., did not stop to speak with reporters after the game.

Ottawa's Rachel Homan beat Edmonton's Val Sweeting 7-5 in the evening. Homan was alone in second place at 6-1 and Sweeting was knocked out of the playoff mix at 3-4.

Krista McCarville of Thunder Bay, Ont., improved her playoff chances with a 5-3 win over Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg. Jones was in third place at 5-2 and McCarville was fourth at 4-2.

Sweeting, Casey Scheidegger (3-4) of Lethbridge, Alta., Winnipeg's Michelle Englot (2-5), Tippin (1-5) and Toronto's Allison Flaxey (0-7) will not play on the weekend. 

Jacobs, meanwhile, ran the table four years ago in Winnipeg and went on to take gold at the Sochi Games.

He played well in wins over Morris and Gushue here but will look back at a stunning miss against Koe as a turning point. Jacobs was wide and heavy with a draw to the eight-foot ring that would have given him a win.

The other key game was an 8-6 loss to Laycock. Jacobs led 4-0 after the first end but was outscored 8-2 after that. Two more defeats would follow.

Against Carruthers, Jacobs seemed out of sorts from the start. Stones were missing the mark and sometimes sailing through the house.

Jacobs shot just 65 per cent in a game that was essentially a must-have.

"We came out here knowing that our fate was in our own hands and didn't perform," he said.

Carruthers scored four in the fourth end, added a deuce in the seventh, and shot 90 per cent overall. His Winnipeg team shot 86 per cent to 81 per cent for the Jacobs rink.

"This is going to be extremely disappointing," said Team Jacobs second E.J. Harnden. "You work three to four years to try to do this all over again. I think it's more disappointing the fact that in my mind, that we didn't leave it all out there."

Round-robin play continues through Friday night. If tiebreakers are necessary, they will be played Saturday morning.

The semifinals between the second- and third-place teams are set for Saturday. The first-place teams get a bye to Sunday's finals.

The winners will represent Canada at the Pyeongchang Games in February.

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Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press

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Thu, 07 Dec 2017 22:38:42 -0500

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