Persistence powers Team Jacobs to Toronto Tankard victory

E.J. Harnden, Marc Kennedy, Brad Jacobs and Ryan Harnden celebrate with the Stu Sells Toronto Tankard after Monday's title win at High Park Club. (Jonathan Brazeau)

TORONTO — Brad Jacobs was anticipating a roadblock like this one along the way.

Things had been progressing smoothly, a little too smoothly perhaps, for Jacobs and his Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., crew since Marc Kennedy joined the fold at third. The foursome — which also includes Jacobs’s cousins E.J. and Ryan Harnden at second and lead, respectively — captured the Canada Cup last December with Kennedy as a substitute and practically picked up where they left off to start this season, finishing runner-up last month at the Shorty Jenkins Classic with Kennedy now on board full-time.

Team Jacobs was due to land on the other side of the inch and hit that wall this week during the Stu Sells Toronto Tankard at High Park Club. Jacobs lost to Kevin Koe’s crew during triple knockout preliminary play to fall into the last-chance C event brackets. Another loss and it would have been C-you later, but Team Jacobs persevered and it paid off. They won five consecutive elimination games — including a 6-1 rematch over Koe in Monday’s final — to capture the title.

“It feels great,” Jacobs told sportsnet.ca after the win. “It was a really long week. We grinded through the C. I think we stayed very patient, very composed. It’s funny, as the games kind of got more and more important, I think we put our best foot forward individually and as a team and collectively really came together.

“It was just a fantastic team effort and I’m really proud of the guys. I mean, they made everything in front of me. I couldn’t have done it without them. They were phenomenal. Just really proud and really relieved that we got this win.”

Kennedy has won 12 Grand Slams, including a pair with Koe during the previous Olympic cycle, and said their earlier encounter with his former skip was actually one of their best games and a “shot-making parade for two-and-a-half hours.”

“We left that loss feeling really good about the way we were playing,” Kennedy said. “Not a surprise that we would play him again in the final and just made a couple more than they did, but it’s not going to be the last battle we have with those guys.”

Jacobs pointed to the fifth end in particular as a pivotal moment in the game. Although they were already up 2-1 and a blank usually isn’t much to write about, back-to-back doubles from Kennedy enabled Jacobs to put those bagels on the board and retain the hammer for the decisive sixth end.

“We got some misses from Koe and we capitalized on every opportunity that we had,” Jacobs said. “… Marc made first the run double and then another run double to get the blank; it was really impressive. Like I said, just all the credit goes to the three guys in front of me, they were phenomenal.”

The team executed a near-perfect sixth stanza capped with an unbelievable precision double takeout from the skip to score three crucial points and put Koe on the ropes.

“Ryan set us up great all week so when he puts his rocks in good spots, it’s so much tougher for the other team,” Kennedy said. “Brad made a great double on his last one, there are not a lot of guys that make that shot that easily. We’re lucky to have him throwing the last one. All in all, a really, really good team effort right from the start of the week through to the end.”

It looked like Koe was threatening to score in seven until Jacobs lied shot rock buried and forced his opponent into a tricky runback on a guard. Koe’s magic meter was tapped out and his raised rock missed the mark to concede a single steal and bring out handshakes.

“The first event at the Shorty, we stood on our heads, we played unbelievable right up and down the lineup until the final game and we weren’t able to finish it,” Jacobs said. “But we went through some struggles this week and to dig deep and fight back the way we did, that’s what I know we’re all most proud of and I think it just bodes well for future events. We draw from this when we know we’re in tough.”

Not that Jacobs needs a boost as he prepares to play in his home region of Northern Ontario for the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling’s Masters, Oct. 22-27, in North Bay.

“We’re really looking forward to playing in North Bay,” Jacobs said with a smile. “We played provincials there, it’s right in our backyard. We know that North Bay and the surrounding area and probably from all over the world, people are going to come and support that event, so we’re really looking forward to playing and hopefully, get a lot of cheers, get the crowd going, get the moose calls going and do what we can to entertain everybody that’s there and watching at home.

“Every day you can just tell everybody is excited to hit the ice and that’s a great feeling. It’s going to be (that way) even more so playing in Northern Ontario.”

Kennedy, an import from St. Albert, Alta., will have to learn to embrace the moose calls.

“I’ll get used to those eventually,” Kennedy said. “There are some people in Alberta that aren’t so happy with me but I’m just excited to be a part of this team, happy to be with these guys and so far, so good.”

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