OTTAWA — A mediocre start to round-robin play at the Tim Hortons Brier didn’t faze Alberta’s Kevin Koe.
The veteran skip won his last seven games at the national men’s curling championship — taking out three of the sport’s best teams in the playoffs — to hoist the Brier Tankard for the third time Sunday night.
Koe played an aggressive style against Brad Gushue from the outset and it paid off with an early lead. Alberta’s three-point seventh end essentially sealed a 9-5 victory over Newfoundland and Labrador.
“This event is so hard to win,” Koe said. “To win three out of four (career finals) feels awesome. With a new team, it feels even better.”
Koe won the Brier in 2010 and 2014 but this is his first title with current teammates Marc Kennedy, Brent Laing and Ben Hebert.
Koe threw at a 96 per cent clip in the final while Gushue was well back at 81 per cent. Alberta had a 94-91 edge in the overall team percentage.
The Calgary skip made his move in the seventh end with a nice takeout in a crowded four-foot to score three. Gushue scored a pair in the eighth end but Koe ended it with a deuce in the ninth.
“I just had to make it easy on Kevin because he wasn’t going to miss,” said Kennedy. “He was a really good leader for us and the way he played, it was inspiring for us to try to play as well as him.”
Gushue won Olympic gold at the 2006 Turin Games but has yet to win a Brier in 13 career appearances. His St. John’s team included Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker.
“We played good all week, we fought through a lot of tough games,” Gushue said. “People were saying this was the best Brier field of all-time. We were in the final with a realistic chance of winning … hopefully we can get ourselves back in this position next year in St. John’s.”
Koe forced Gushue to go for a double runback that was just slightly off, allowing Alberta to steal a single in the first end.
Koe stole another in the second before Gushue halved the lead with a hit for one in the third. Koe added a deuce in the fourth and had a nice double takeout in the fifth to force Gushue to hit for a single.
Newfoundland and Labrador stole one back in the sixth end before Koe’s big end.
“We struggled last year and to come back, have a great year and top it off with a Brier is awesome,” Koe said.
Earlier in the day, Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs edged Manitoba’s Mike McEwen 7-6 to win the bronze medal.
Jacobs was the only unbeaten team in round-robin play at TD Place but two straight playoff defeats sent the reigning Olympic champion to the third-place game.
McEwen forced an extra end with a double takeout to score a pair. Jacobs had hammer in the 11th end and drew to the four-foot for the victory.
“This raises our spirits a little bit,” Jacobs said. “Coming back out here and playing well and winning a bronze medal is something that I think we’ll be proud of. And like I said, it feels good.
“We were really feeling the pain of those two losses last night so this lifts our spirits.”
Jacobs was in control of the Page Playoff 1-2 game on Friday night but Gushue came back to win and lock up a berth in the gold-medal game.
Koe, meanwhile, earned the third seed after an 8-3 round-robin. He took out McEwen in the Page Playoff 3-4 game and beat Jacobs in the semifinal on a measurement.
Koe’s 2010 team included Blake MacDonald, Carter Rycroft and Nolan Thiessen. His 2014 lineup featured Rycroft, Thiessen and Pat Simmons.
Laing won Brier titles in 2007 in 2012 with Ontario skip Glenn Howard. Kennedy and Hebert hoisted the Tankard in 2008 and 2009 with Alberta skip Kevin Martin and added an Olympic title in 2010.
Gushue previously reached the Brier final in 2011 and 2007.
Announced attendance was 7,183 for the early game and a sellout crowd of 8,419 took in the final. The tournament total was 115,047.
Koe will represent Canada at the men’s world curling championship next month in Basel, Switzerland.
In addition, he qualifies for this year’s Canada Cup in Brandon, Man., the 2017 Continental Cup in Las Vegas and will return as Team Canada at next year’s Brier in St. John’s.
Koe’s team will receive $225,000, including $144,000 in Sport Canada funding over two years. Gushue’s rink will earn $61,000.
Alberta’s Chelsea Carey won the women’s national title last month in Grande Prairie, Alta. She will represent Canada at the upcoming world women’s curling championship in Swift Current, Sask.