Manitoba's Gunnlaugson and Koe's Wild Card Two only unbeaten teams left at Brier

Manitoba’s Jason Gunnlaugson moved into sole possession of first place in Pool A at the Canadian men’s curling championship on Monday after an 8-5 victory over Wild Card One’s Mike McEwen.

Gunnlaugson was the only unbeaten skip in the nine-team pool at 3-0.

“It’s a good start but it’s a long, long week,” Gunnlaugson said.

Kevin Koe’s first-place Wild Card Two (5-0) had the lone perfect record in Pool B after an 11-3 rout of Nunavut’s Peter Mackey (0-4) in the evening.

Alberta’s Brendan Bottcher defeated Wild Card Three’s Wayne Middaugh 5-3 to hand the veteran skip his first loss of the preliminary round.

Bottcher, who has reached the Tim Hortons Brier final in each of the last three years, earned a critical steal in the eighth end when Middaugh was light on his draw.

“It’s early in the week but these wins count as much as the ones on Thursday, Friday and Saturday,” Bottcher said. “You need to win them while you can.

“We played a really good game there and it was nice to cap it off and pull out the W.”

READ MORE: Alberta’s Bottcher hands Wild Card Three’s Middaugh his first loss at Brier 

In other afternoon games, British Columbia’s Steve Laycock dumped Yukon’s Dustin Mikkelsen 9-2 and New Brunswick’s James Grattan edged Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs 7-6 in an extra end.

Gunnlaugson, who was 5-6 in his Brier main draw debut last year, has already knocked off two expected contenders in McEwen and Bottcher.

“It’s hard to put into words how valuable it is to have a guy like Jay on your team,” Manitoba lead Connor Njegovan.

“Everything is so planned out and when he’s hitting well, it’s very hard to stop us.”

New Brunswick and Alberta were tied in second place at 3-1. Wild Card One and Northern Ontario were 2-2 while B.C. improved to 1-2.

Middaugh is filling in at skip on Wild Card Three (2-1) for Glenn Howard, who injured his ribs in a recent snowmobile crash. Howard is serving as the team fifth this week.

The Northwest Territories (0-3) and Yukon (0-4) remained winless.

Saskatchewan’s Matt Dunstone made a draw for a piece of the button in a 6-5 win over Canada’s Brad Gushue (2-2). Saskatchewan moved into a second-place tie at 3-1 with idle Ontario skip John Epping.

Nova Scotia’s Scott McDonald posted a 9-6 win over Quebec’s Michael Fournier that left both teams with 3-2 records. Greg Smith of Newfoundland and Labrador (1-4) earned his first victory with an 11-7 win over P.E.I.’s Eddie MacKenzie (0-4).

The preliminary round continues through Thursday night at the Markin MacPhail Centre on the grounds of Canada Olympic Park. The top four teams in each pool will advance to the two-day championship round.

The final is set for Sunday night. The winner will represent Canada at the world men’s curling championship next month at the same venue.

Watch below: (From March 5, 2021) The Brier is underway at WinSport. It’s the second of six major curling events in Calgary set to bring in millions of dollars amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Jackie Wilson reports.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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