Ottawa - Brad Gushue certainly isn’t prepared to throw in the towel, but the skip of the curling team from St. John’s is skating on thin ice at these Roar of the Rings Canadian Olympic Trials.
Gushue, Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker lost a heart-breaker Monday night at the Canadian Tire Centre, 7-4 to Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs to fall to 2-2.
Gushue and Co. actually played very well – as a team, they outperformed the reigning Olympic gold medallists in the percentages, 92-88 – but it’s how they lost that was the story of the night.
Trailing 1-0 and holding hammer in the third end, Gushue’s final shot caught a hair and ‘picked’, as they say in curling, giving Jacobs a steal of three and a 4-0 lead.
Gushue fought valiantly to come back, but the writing was on the wall.
“I thought we did a great job staying into it,” Gushue said afterwards. “I thought it was a hell of a job considering the situation that we faced.
“Our degree of difficulty was infinitely higher than what they had to play when you’re trying to come back. They were just throwing bombs down there. Doing a great job mind you – they played real well – but I think Brad and his team would agree that it’s a different game if that doesn’t pick.
“I thought we played really good. I’m not going to lie. We made a hell of a lot of really tough shots, and executed really well just to give ourselves a sniff.”
The loss puts Gushue at 2-2 and the train of thought here at these Trials, in a deep nine-man field, is three losses won’t get you into the playoffs.
Gushue has four games remaining – all 8:30 p.m. starts (NL time) – beginning Tuesday night with Reid Carruthers followed by Mike McEwen, Steven Laycock and Kevin Koe Wednesday through Friday.
To be safe, and secure, at worst, a tie-breaker, he’ll have to run the table.
“It’s still too early to say,” he said, “but I wouldn’t be extremely confident at 5-3. A 6-2 record will get you in, for sure.
“That said, I’d be shocked if 5-3 doesn’t get you something (i.e. tie-breaker). But I certainly don’t want to be in that boat. I’d rather be 6-2.
“It might mean running the table, and that’s our goal. Hopefully, we’ll get a little bit of help. Who knows, we might even get a bye to the final if we can run the table.”
Gushue beat Jacobs in their only meeting this year, 5-2 in the Tour Challenge semifinals in September. Many will remember Gushue's 7-5 win over Jacobs at the Brier last year, the first of eight straight wins at Mile One Centre that led to the Tim Hortons Brier crown.
Overall, Gushue was a career 21-18 against Jacobs, and enjoyed a four-game winning streak.
But that’s all ancient history now as Jacobs showed no hangover from a demoralizing 8-6 loss to Koe Sunday when he flubbed his last shot for the win.
Gushue did admit if the team misses out on a playoff berth or tie-breaker by one loss, it will be hard to stomach looking back and knowing your Olympic hopes went down the toilet literally on a hair on the ice.
“That’s frustrating,” he said, “but that’s not the way we’re going to look at it.
“It is a loss. But they played great and who knows, if that rock doesn’t pick, we still could have lost anyway.
“We just have to plug away, grind it out, and try to get a playoff spot. But no doubt it’s going to make things a little harder.”