|Newfoundland/Labrador skip Brad Gushue waves to the crowd after defeating Alberta. (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)
LONDON, Ont. – It’s a first Brad Gushue likely wishes had gone to someone else.
The Newfoundland/Labrador skip became the first to win a bronze medal at the Canadian men’s curling championship Sunday afternoon when he beat Kevin Martin of Alberta 10-5 in the third-place game of the 2011 Tim Hortons Brier at the John Labatt Centre.
Gushue made a punchout for four with his final stone of the eighth end to end the game, played before just under 6,900 spectators.
“It feels a little bit better than I thought it would,” said Gushue, whose third, Mark Nichols, is leaving competitive curling for a while. “Mark and I knew it would be our last game together for a couple of years at least, so it was nice to send him out with a win.
“We were pretty upset last night (after losing the semifinal to Ontario’s Glenn Howard) and nobody got much sleep. But we just tried to come out and make the most of it and put on a good show for the fans. And once you see a rock start going down the ice and you see you’re close to making the shot, the juices get going.
“I’m far too competitive to go out and throw the game. The intensity may not have been what it was Friday night or last night, but we wanted to make every shot and we wanted to win.”
While none of the players was overly thrilled to be playing in what they all viewed as a meaningless tilt, they still took it seriously enough, keeping plenty of rocks in play most ends and dispelling any fears it would be a boring hit-fest with a multitude of entertaining ends and shots.
“It was all right,” Martin said. “The crowd was great and that added something to it and everyone had fun, but for us as competitive curlers it was a tough game to have to play. It’s important that we players put forward our thoughts about this, but at the same time, the fans are more important than anybody, so we tried to have fun with it.
“Both teams were certainly more aggressive than they would normally have been, that’s for sure.”
Gushue made a nice comearound draw for one in the first as Martin lay two buried, and Martin was forced to take one in the second as he was left with a no-hope draw through a very narrow port with plenty of rocks out front.
Gushue made a hit for two in the third, but Martin returned the favour in the fourth after incredible back-to-back shots. First, trying to peel his centre guard, Martin saw it carom back in off a corner guard and remove a Gushue rock to leave Alberta lying four. Gushue then made a triple, splitting the first two Martin counters and having enough forward momentum to get the third.
The circus shots continued in the fifth, with Morris attempting a quadruple takeout and then a triple and almost pulling them off. Martin then made a cross-house double to sit one, but Gushue was still left with an open hit for two.
Martin missed on a raise takeout attempt in the sixth, giving Gushue a steal of one, but the Alberta skip nearly tied it in the seventh with a difficult triple, although he scored two to cut the Newfoundland/Labrador lead to 6-5.