Young Quebec rink shakes off nerves

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:41 PM ET

LONDON - There was the belief that if anything was going to get to Quebec skip Francois Gagne and his rink, it would be nerves.

After all, this was his first Brier competition and he was bringing one of the most inexperienced rinks to the event.

But it wasn't his nerves that gave way. He blamed his decision making for his team's 8-7 extra-end loss to Saskatchewan Sunday, Quebec's first loss in the Brier. Quebec is now 2-1 and plays New Brunswick and Ontario Monday.

Pat Simmons, who throws skip rocks for the Steve Laycock's Saskatchewan rink, had an open draw for the win in the 11th end.

"I took a wrong decision," Gagne said. "In the fifth end I had an easy shot for one and tried a hard double for two. I was confident with that shot but I didn't throw it very well. I didn't have a good delivery and I missed it.

"Instead of being a tie game, he was ahead by three and that was the difference in the game."

Earlier in the day Quebec, defeated Prince Edward Island's Eddie MacKenzie 10-3.

If nothing else, the tough loss to Saskatchewan will go a long way in toughing up Gagne's rink. Until you participate in the Brier, it is difficult to understand how much pressure a team can be under.

Even though Quebec struggled early with their consistency against Saskatchewan, they fought back, stealing one in the 10th to force the game to extra ends. It took a good shot by Simmons on a double takeout to prevent Gagne from winning outright.

"I have to give a lot of credit to my team," Gagne said. "We came back after that, down by three. We never gave up. We fight the rest of the game and the extra end was great. We missed a couple of shots and with a good team like that you can't do any mistakes."

Despite the loss, Gagne was happy with his first two days of work. After three games, Gagne is tied for third in shooting percentages among skips and his team is fifth overall.

Saskatchewan is one of the teams who might surprise at the Brier. "It was one of those games when we worked a little harder than we would have liked," Simmons said. "But at the end of the day that doesn't matter. In fact, winning a game like that early for the young guys to make that shot was a good thing."

Simmons says the win was a big one for an early game.

"They are all huge, all week, but especially early in the week," he said.

"You just can't give games away here early in the week and expect to be around come playoff time. That would have hurt and momentum would have been hard to get back."

For Gagne, the loss was like an initiation. He and his rink has now gone through an intense, pressure-packed game.

Not only have the nerves disappeared, but he has grown confidence knowing he has the talent to play here.

"Right now we are down to earth," Gagne said. "We are not nervous anymore. We are just trying to play our game. We know we have the ability to fight these guys. We will not give up. You will see as the week goes on we will still be there at the end trying to fight."


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