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 all but dashed Thursday as Jacobs dropped a 9-5 decision to Reid Carruthers. The loss left Jacobs at 2-4 with only a slim chance of making it to a tiebreaker game.
"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."
Jacobs ran the table four years ago in Winnipeg and went on to take gold at the Sochi Games.
He played well in wins over John Morris and Brad Gushue in round-robin play at Canadian Tire Centre but will look back at a stunning miss against Kevin Koe as a turning point. Jacobs was wide and heavy with an open draw to the eight-foot ring that would have given him a win.
The other key game was an 8-6 loss to Steve Laycock. Jacobs led 4-0 after one 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.
The top three rinks in the nine-team field will make the playoffs on the weekend. Jacobs still had a very slim chance of reaching a tiebreaker game, but he’ll need to win two in a row and get a lot of help.
He will take on Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen on Thursday night knowing that his hopes of an Olympic repeat are essentially kaput.
"This is going to be extremely disappointing," said 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."
Carruthers, meanwhile, stayed in the playoff mix by improving to 4-3. He scored four in the fourth end, added a deuce in the seventh, and shot 90 per cent overall.
"We’ve got one more left," Carruthers said. "If we can get to 5-3, we might have a sniff but there’s still some real good teams that have to lose."
The Carruthers team shot 86 per cent overall to 81 per cent for the Jacobs rink.
Koe, from Calgary, started the day in first place at 6-0. Gushue, from St. John’s, N.L., and Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen were next at 4-2.
Carruthers, from Winnipeg, was alone in fourth place at 4-3 after 15 draws. Edmonton’s Brendan Bottcher was next at 2-3 and Laycock, from Saskatoon, was tied with Jacobs at 2-4.
Entering the afternoon draw, Calgary’s Chelsea Carey led the women’s standings at 5-0. Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones and Ottawa’s Rachel Homan were 5-1.
Winnipeg’s Michelle Englot defeated Toronto’s Allison Flaxey 8-7 in an extra end in the other Thursday morning game. Englot improved to 2-4 while Flaxey fell to 0-7.
Round-robin play continues through Friday night. If tiebreakers are necessary, they will be played Saturday morning.
The semifinals are set for Saturday and the finals will be played Sunday. The winners will represent Canada at the Pyeongchang Games in February.