Jacobs in thick of things

PETER RUICCI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:44 AM ET

SAULT STE. MARIE, ONT. - A win-loss record of 3-2 may be enough to earn a playoff spot.

But Brad Jacobs doesn't want to leave anything to chance.

"We want both games," said Jacobs, whose rink takes a 2-1 mark into its remaining two round-robin contests today at the GP Car and Home World Cup of Curling at Essar Centre.

Team Jacobs, which secured back-to-back victories Thursday, faces John Epping (2-1) of Toronto at 4 p.m. and Glenn Howard (2-1) of Coldwater, Ont., at 7:30 p.m.

After today's final draw in the five-day, 18-team, $100,000 event, the top eight teams advance into Saturday's playoff round.

The final goes Sunday at 1 p.m.

Depending on what some of the other rinks do today, a split of the games could allow the Jacobs rink to either qualify, or get a shot at a tie breaker, Saturday at 8:30 a.m.

But like Jacobs, third E.J. Harnden says he and his teammates must come out today "with the goal of winning both games. Usually, finishing 3-2 gives you a pretty-good shot. But we don't want to bank on that."

"And we'll be in tough," added Jacobs, whose rink entered the event ranked No. 9 on the World Curling Tour's Order of Merit.

Epping is presently ranked seventh on that list while Howard, a three-time Brier and world champion, is No. 4.

"We need to play extremely well against those two rinks to qualify," said Jacobs, who is also joined by second Ryan Harnden and lead Scott Seabrook. "We absolutely like that kind of a challenge and we're up to it."

While teams have been split into three, six-team pools for round-robin competition, the eight best rinks — regardless of pool — qualify.

Going into today's 9 a.m. draw, Mike McEwen and Jeff Stoughton, both of Winnipeg, and Edmonton's Kevin Martin share top spot with records of 3-0.

Along with Jacobs, Epping and Howard, Edmonton's Randy Ferbey and Brad Gushue of St. John's, Nfld., are also 2-1.

Niklas Edin of Karlstad, Sweden, and Saskatoon's Steven Laycock are next at 1-1.

After dropping Wednesday's opener, 6-5 to Stoughton, the Jacobs rink did exactly what it set out to do Thursday.

In a 9 a.m. draw, Team Jacobs stole in the extra end to defeat Toronto's Mark Kean 5-4.

In the 7:30 p.m. draw, Jacobs also need to work a little overtime, using an extra end to beat Jim Cotter of Vernon, B.C., 6-5.

"Those were two big wins," said Jacobs, whose rink is the two-time defending Northern Ontario champion. "We got a huge break in the morning when he (Kean) just missed a slash. That allowed us to steal in the extra end."

"We were solid enough to get two wins," E.J. Harnden added. "But we'll have to be sharper Friday (today)."

With the hammer and trailing Cotter 3-2 in the seventh end, Jacobs was facing a Cotter stone on the button, partially covered.

But the Sault Ste. Marie skip, who was lying second and third shot — both in the eight foot — played a come around, and tapped the shot rock far enough off the button to score three.

With his first shot of that end, Jacobs was facing three tightly-bunched counters, one on the button. He pushed all three back, spilling one and leaving his rink with first and second shot rocks.

"That was a big shot for us," said Jacobs whose rink took a 5-3 lead into the eighth end of an eight-end game.

But Jacobs had some trouble with a corner freeze in the eighth, allowing Cotter to draw for two, tie the game and force an extra end.

A double-peel by E.J. Harnden was a highlight in the extra end — "That was the second-biggest shot of the game," Jacobs said — and helped set the stage for the Sault skip, who used the hammer to spill two opposition counters, both biting the four foot.

Jacobs, who couldn't hold his shooter, had a rock in the back, full eight-foot, which provided the winning margin.

"The Epping rink is a very tough team having a good year," E.J. Harnden said, looking ahead to today's action. "We beat Howard at the Brier last year and they are beatable. But we'll have to curl great and get a few breaks against them. That's what you need at this level."

In other Draw 5 action Thursday, Martin defeated Thomas Ulsrud of Oslo, Norway, 6-2, Epping was a 7-2 winner over Kean, Stoughton defeated Howard 8-5 and Ferbey secured a 7-6 decision over Greg Balsdon of Kingston.

In Draw 4, Edmonton's Kevin Koe scored a 6-4 victory over Rob Fowler of Brandon, Man., Martin beat Ferbey 7-3, Balsdon stopped Edin 8-4, McEwen took four in the eighth to register a 7-4 decision over Gushue and Ulsrud needed an extra end to edge Dale Matchett of Bradford, Ont., 6-5.

In Draw 3, Gushue stole one in the seventh and one in the eighth to defeat Laycock 5-4 , McEwen stole two on the seventh and one in the eighth to defeat Koe 6-4.

Stoughton got by Kean 5-4 in an extra end, Rob Fowler of Brandon, Man., beat Edmonton's Robert Schendler 6-4 and Howard was a 7-3 winner over Epping.

In other Draw 2 action, Epping beat Cotter 7-6, Laycock was an 8-3 winner over Schendler, Edin stopped Matchett 7-4 and Martin was a 7-4 winner over Balsdon.


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