Territories ready for debut in Brier's big-time

Alberta skip Kevin Koe (right) and his brother, Northwest Territories skip Jamie Koe, will face...

Alberta skip Kevin Koe (right) and his brother, Northwest Territories skip Jamie Koe, will face each other in the 3-4 Page playoff match at The Brier in Saskatoon, Sask., on Saturday. (ANDY CLARK/Reuters)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:46 PM ET

SASKATOON - What you are about to read is a Koe-free, Koe-Koe column.

This isn't just about Territories skip Jamie Koe and Alberta skip Kevin Koe. Or their just turned 65-year-old father, Fred.

Make it a Koe-free, Koe-Koe-Koe column.

There's more involved here in the rematch Saturday in the sudden-death Page playoff 3-4 game than Koe-Koe.

That the Territories made it to the Brier medal round for the first time in their history, despite getting eviscerated 11-3 by the skip's brother and his Alberta team Wednesday, is something special.

It's a fully accredited rock of ages story at the grand Canadian granite concert.

There are three other guys here with names longer than three letters who made this happen.

Like Brad Chorostkowski.

The 38-year-old plumber is in his eighth Brier. He's been to all six with Koe (25-41). But in Chorostkowski's case he started with Steve Moss (0-11) and played for Trevor Alexander (1-10), which makes him 26-62 personally.

"It's such a struggle. We can't afford to go away to get competition. It costs us $8,000 to go to Whitehorse for our Territories championship. But I've kept doing it just for this. This accomplishment makes it all worthwhile. Now it's real. Now it's happened," said the second.

"It's all kind of surreal, actually," said 39-year-old third Tom Naugler. "These other teams play all year on the tour. We play once a week in a Thursday night league against juniors and seniors. Our coach, Terry Shea, is the ice-maker at the Yellowknife club and he has a special sheet made for us to practice with our own specially sharpened rocks to try to simulate the amount of swing you get on arena ice.

"Practice is all we can do," said Naugler.

Lead Robert Borden is the only Brier rookie on the team.

"They picked me up in the off-season. I'd been playing for Steve Moss," he said of the skip who is the answer to the Brier trivia question that was in Friday's Tankard Times -- Name the skip who has twice gone 0-11 at the Brier.

"This is a pretty big deal for us. We're getting an incredible response from back home. And now all eyes are going to be on us," he said of being the only game on the ice, with three or four thousand more fans in the stands and a few hundred thousand more viewers on TV.

"We played three on TV this year and won two," he said. "The only one we lost was that game against Alberta."

Those guys from Alberta were supposed to be in Friday's 1-2 game against Ontario's Glenn Howard.

But after the Territories team finished practice here in the afternoon, Nolan Thiessen, Carter Rycroft, Pat Simmons and their skip took to the ice for their practice session.

They're as impressed with the Territories' accomplishment as anybody.

"It's absolutely amazing," said Rycroft. "To do what they've done is phenomenal. It's not the atmosphere here. They've been to a Brier before. But to be doing shot after shot, considering they don't play on the tour or have the competition up there."

As for the wheels falling off the Alberta team, there are three other guys -- one a former Olympian, two members of the skip's 2010 Brier-winning and world championship team -- who have a pretty good perspective.

Carter, who won an Olympic silver with Kevin Martin in 2002, didn't mull the question over for long.

"Easy," he said of the team with a skip ranked No. 2 at his position at 83%, Pat Simmons No. 2 at 85%, Carter 1st at 89% and lead Nolan Thiessen 3rd at 88%.

"It's the accumulation of easy shots we've missed. Our losses have been because of mistakes we've made. What we let Glenn Howard do was what we'd been doing to other teams -- let them beat themselves."

Lead Nolan Thiessen said they're not going to over-think the spot they are in.

"Our situation is eerily similar to the one we were in two years ago when we had to beat Brad Gushue in the 3-4, Brad Jacobs in the semifinal and Howard in the final. It's not an easy road. But we've done it.

"Heather Nedohin did it two weeks ago at the Scotties. It's something we can do."

It hasn't helped that Simmons has picked up some kind of virus and has been fighting to stay in the line-up since their 6-0 start.

"I don't know what it is," said the Moose Jaw chiropractor. "When I sweep, I get a burning sensation in my chest. And I'm coughing things up."

One thing to consider here. If the team which wins the 3-4 game loses the semifinal, the bronze medal game Sunday will be another Koe-Koe game.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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