Tough start to Brier for B.C.

Ryan Pyette, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:58 PM ET

LONDON — If there’s a curling version of the gauntlet, Jim Cotter just ran it.

The first-time British Columbia skip started his 2011 Tim Hortons Brier with these four opponents: Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton, Alberta’s Kevin Martin, Newfoundland’s Brad Gushue and, Monday morning, Ontario’s Glen Howard.

Or in other words, former Brier champ, four-time Brier champ and Olympic champ, Olympic champ and former Brier champ. That’s four of the world’s top teams.

White-water rafting and zip-lining the B.C. treetops back home aren’t as intimidating. Cotter emerged from those thicket with a 1-3 mark — an extra-end win over Gushue Sunday night.

Bruised, battered but not beaten.

“We would’ve liked to come out of it 2-2,” the 36-year-old said, “but we didn’t and it is what it is. It’s nice to get through it. When I first saw the draw, I knew it’d be tough but I thought it could be a good thing for us.”

B.C. coach Rick Folk, whose son Kevin is Cotter’s second, echoed that approach.

“When we saw the draw, I asked the guys, ‘Would you rather play those four the first four games or the last four to get into the playoffs,” Folk said. “I’ve played in a lot of Briers with former world champions and you want them early on because everyone’s still figuring out the ice.

“That’s when you have your best chance to get them.”

And if you don’t, you’re up against the wall quickly.

“We need to get on a run,” Cotter said. “We need to come out blazing. We really can’t afford to lose anymore.”

New Brunswick’s James Grattan knows how B.C. feels. They opened with the Big Three — Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta — and started 1-2.

These tough draws happen at Briers and, because it’s a round-robin format, there isn’t usually much complaint.

“In the end, everyone has to play everyone else no matter when it is,” Warren Hansen, Canadian Curling Association director of even management and media relations, said.

Danny Lamoureux is responsible for putting the schedule together. The CCA uses a master draw key, but it isn’t blind: there’s some rearranging to put the spotlight on the marquee games.

“Alberta and Ontario playing (the final round-robin draw) Thursday evening isn’t by chance,” Hansen said. “We do some juggling with it until we get some of the matchups we want.

“Three years ago in Winnipeg, Ontario and Alberta played on a Thursday morning and there was a lot of whining and complaining about it. You also want the host province in that first draw. Those are things you need to have in there.”

And when it comes out in the wash, there are teams that know they’ll be behind the eight-ball early.

“You just have to dig yourself out,” Cotter said. “We have to start winning and keep it going.”

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/ryanpyette


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