Jacobs rink ready for Brier

MICHAEL PURVIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. -- Expect Brad Jacobs and his teammates to have just a bit more swagger as they step back onto the pebbled ice at next month's Tim Hortons Brier.

Sunday's stunning turnaround win at the Dominion 2011 Northern Ontario Men's Provincial Curling Championships in Thunder Bay makes the Sault Ste. Marie rink the first Northern Ontario rink in 20 years to make back-to-back Brier trips.

"We've wanted this so bad, to go back to the Brier, and to do it in southern Ontario is going to be special, I have a really good feeling," said Jacobs, whose team was down 6-2 going into the 9th end Sunday, but managed a 7-6 win anyway against Thunder Bay's Joe Scharf.

The Soo Curlers team -- Jacobs, third E.J. Harnden, second Ryan Harnden and lead Scott Seabrook -- took the day off Monday to relax and regroup, but Jacobs said they are eager to be back on the ice to get in as many "quality," practices as they can before heading to London, Ont. for the March 5-13 national tournament.

The team went 9-2 in last year's Brier in Halifax with Caleb Flaxey playing lead. They were knocked out in the semifinal by eventual Brier winner Kevin Koe, of Alberta.

Jacobs said the goal next month as they try it again, is to, "do the same, if not better."

Can they win it? "Definitely."

"You have to think that way," said Jacobs, 25. "You don't ever expect to go into a competition thinking you can't win. Why are you going there?"

That isn't the team's focus right now, though. What they're concentrating on is, "playing to our potential," he said.

This young team has plenty of that, said Jacobs' uncle, Al Harnden.

Al Harnden is a veteran of four Briers, his brother Eric -- E.J. and Ryan's father -- went to three.

"I look back on that with a great amount of pride and these boys have a chance to do much more than that because they have many, many years ahead of them," said Al Harnden.

He said he was nearly 30 by the time he attended his first Brier, in 1983.

The oldest player on Jacobs' rink, meanwhile, is 27, and all have had their Brier experience.

E.J. and Ryan played alongside their father in the 2008 Brier, and Jacobs accompanied his uncle Al to the Brier the year before as a 21-year-old vice-skip. Seabrook too is not without Brier experience, having gone as a fifth man in Mike Jakubo's 2009 effort.

For Jacobs, that early experience has likely contributed to the team's success, said Al Harnden.

"That made him understand that he could do it, that he was now part of an elite group of curlers that had a chance to play in the Brier," said Harnden.

On top of that, they're a hard-working team with natural skill and they've got a solid coach in Tom Coulterman, he said.

Jacobs said he hopes his experience at last year's Brier makes him more comfortable going in this year.

Last year wasn't his first Brier, but it was his first as skip, which made a big difference, he said.

"Calling the game and viewing the game as a skip is a completely different perspective, especially in a big arena like that," Jacobs said.

Jacobs said he was, "a little nervous," in Halifax, and hopes an added year of experience helps.

An anticipated boost from the fans likely won't hurt either.

As young up-andcomers, the Saultites had no shortage of support last year in Halifax.

But this year, with the Brier taking place in southern Ontario, Jacobs said regional pride would have run strong in the John Labatt Centre regardless of who wears the green and yellow.

That's where Jacobs expects the back-to-back Northern Ontario championships to kick in. He is the first skip since Al Hackner, in 1988 and 1989, do make a return trip.

"The fact that we did well last year is probably going to help us gain a little more crowd support even beyond," the ordinary level of fan support, said Jacobs.


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