Team Alberta taking calm, relaxed approach ahead of Brier final

Team Alberta skip Brendan Bottcher visualizes his delivery as he takes on Team Wild Card during the championship round at the Brier in Kingston, Ont., on Friday, March 6, 2020. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

KINGSTON — Team Alberta has a fair bit of time to pass before Brendan Bottcher’s rink plays for a third straight Brier title on Sunday night — more than 24 hours between their last victory and what they hope will be their next, to be exact.

“Wait, when do we play?” Alberta-born third Darren Moulding asks, a minute or so after his team officially punched their ticket to the big game with a 9-4 win over Saskatchewan at a raucous Leon’s Centre on Saturday afternoon.

The Brier final is set for Sunday at 7 p.m. ET, Darren.

“Oh, we’ll have fun,” the 37-year-old says, of the hours until then. “Kingston’s a fun town.”

Plans include pizza — the team really enjoys Wooden Heads Gourmet Pizza in town, and Moulding highly recommends the shrimp pizza. “You won’t regret it, I promise,” he says.

Team Bottcher will also be watching movies. Friday night it was Return of the Titans. Another team favourite is Planes, Trains and Automobiles, featuring the legendary John Candy. “Oh, and I’ll probably sleep for 17 hours,” Moulding says.

Yes, this team is quite relaxed ahead of one of the biggest games of their lives, led by their skip, who uses the word “calm” at least once in every post-game interview, and who exudes that very emotion (or, rather, lack of emotion?) on the ice.

“I think another good game for us, we’re gonna have to just stay calm, we’ll get a practice between now and then, which should be good,” Bottcher said, hands tucked neatly behind his back, shortly after another dominant performance that improved his team’s record to a near-perfect 11-1 here. “But otherwise we gotta try and reduce how big of a moment we’re in and try and just make it another curling game and go out there and play well.”

That message of calm is something Bottcher often reminds his teammates of. “He always says that,” Moulding confirms, and it has literally changed his personality, he adds. “Oh yeah, it helps. I mean, if you’d met me four years ago compared to now?” Moulding says he was “an orangutan, and still am a little bit.” But now? “I just stay calm and so does the skipper,” he says. “And it’s mostly because of him.”

Bottcher curled at 89 per cent on Saturday, and scored four in the final end to punctuate a game Alberta led from start to finish. This team hasn’t given up a steal in five straight games. It stole two points in Saturday’s victory over Saskatchewan and Matt Dunstone.

Dunstone and Co. will have another shot at cracking the final in Sunday afternoon’s semifinal, where they’ll face two-time Brier champion, Brad Gushue and his Newfoundland rink. Gushue knocked off the world No. 1 team of Brad Jacobs and Northern Ontario on Saturday night, a clinical back-and-forth seesaw battle that saw Gushue come away with a 7-4 win after a key hit and roll to save his team in the ninth.

“I wanted that one,” a grinning Gushue said, afterwards. He rates his team’s confidence as “pretty high” headed into Sunday. “I do think we’ve got another level we can get to,” he adds, which they’ll need: Newfoundland lost to Saskatchewan on Friday, on the final shot of the game.

Whether Bottcher is up against Gushue or Dunstone, it’s a third straight shot at the title that has eluded this Alberta rink the last two years, with losses in the final here.

“We’ve been in that situation twice now, it’s really not new for us anymore,” Bottcher said. “We’ve just gotta go out there and do our thing. The last couple years it’s been hard because we didn’t really know what it was going to feel like at the end. And this year I think we know what it’s going to feel like, right down to the very last shot, because that’s how close it was last year.”

Moulding said his team didn’t expect to cruise to the final, as they pretty well have, with just one loss on their record. “We expect to play well, so that was the by-product of playing well,” he said. “We feel like when we play our top game that we’re really tough to beat.

“The more of these games we play, we’re going to win some, and we know that. Hopefully Sunday’s our day.”

But first, movies, pizza and lots of sleep for Team Alberta.

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