Koe loses another teammate as Laing leaves to join Epping

Brent Laing. (Natacha Pisarenko/AP)

NORTH BAY, Ont. — Brent Laing joined Kevin Koe’s rink four years ago to form a superteam that achieved its goal of reaching the Winter Games.

Less than a month after missing the podium in Pyeongchang, only half of that Olympic lineup remains intact.

Laing will reunite with lead Craig Savill on a new-look John Epping team next season. The move, announced Monday, came two weeks after Koe third Marc Kennedy said he would be stepping away from competitive curling.

Koe and lead Ben Hebert were expected to unveil a new lineup Tuesday.

"We talked about staying together and we looked at different options and it became pretty clear that just for whatever reason — circumstance, choices, what everybody was looking for — it’s just the three of us weren’t going to end up together," Laing told The Canadian Press.

Epping announced earlier in the day that his team would be making changes at the end of the season. Second Patrick Janssen and lead Tim March will be leaving while Mat Camm remains at third.

Word of the Laing-Savill front-end addition came a short time later.

Laing, who was in North Bay on Monday to watch wife Jennifer Jones play at the world women’s curling championship, teamed with Savill to win national and world titles with skip Glenn Howard in 2007 and 2012.

Epping, who won the Canadian Open in 2015, recently won bronze at the Tim Hortons Brier. The 34-year-old skip is currently ranked eighth in the world.

"I know I’ve been around awhile but there’s still lots of things on my bucket list that I need to check off," Epping said from Toronto. "I think that the best move for me is to bring them on to help do that."

All four players are based in Ontario. A message left with Koe was not immediately returned but the team posted a message on its Twitter feed.

"Wishing ↕blaing99 nothing but the best with his new team. We want to thank him for an incredible 4 years. Together we won a Brier, World title, Olympic Trials, Grand Slam and made a lot of memories along the way. Tomorrow we’ll have exciting news on the new Team Koe. Stay tuned!"

Laing, who also thanked his teammates on Twitter, said the 2016 national and world titles were highlights of their time together, along with the Olympic Trials victory last December.

"We had such a good four years but that’s what it was always about was those four years," Laing said in a sitdown interview at the North Bay Memorial Gardens.

It has been a busy post-Olympic free agency period on the domestic curling scene. Several top teams have rejigged their lineups for next season as they look ahead to the upcoming quadrennial.

When Kennedy announced his decision, the Team Koe statement said there were no firm lineup plans in place for next season but that the search was on for a replacement.

Laing, 39, said he wasn’t planning to leave at that time. He talked with Koe and Hebert about other players’ plans and potential changes, and it became clear to him over the weekend that a move would be best.

"It kind of dragged on and on and on in my mind anyway," Laing said. "But this new team came together fairly quickly. I knew that that was team that I wanted to be on."

Savill, meanwhile, left the Howard rink a few years ago and went on to play with skips Shawn Adams and Charley Thomas. The 39-year-old also served as an alternate for Reid Carruthers at the Olympic Trials.

Canada won mixed doubles gold at the Pyeongchang Games. However, in a major surprise, both four-player teams — Calgary’s Koe on the men’s side and Ottawa’s Rachel Homan in the women’s event — missed the podium.

"Through all the trials and tribulations and ups and downs, we weren’t the most consistent team, but when we found our gear — all four of us together — we sure were hard to beat," Laing said.

Canada won gold in the men’s and women’s competitions at the 2014 Games in Sochi.

Also Monday, Brier silver medallist Brendan Bottcher of Edmonton announced that his four-man team plans to stay together as it begins its pursuit of Olympic qualification in 2022.

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