THUNDER BAY – Sault Ste. Marie’s Brad Jacobs is headed back to the Tim Hortons Brier.
The 31-year-old skip out-dueled Thunder Bay’s Dylan Johnston 6-3 on Sunday in the 2017 Travelers Men’s Provincial final, the team winning all eight of its games en route to their seventh title in eight years.
“It feels great. For our team, anytime we get into this event and we can win it, it’s just a total relief,” said Jacobs, who had to throw his final stone in the 10th end before running the Johnston rink out of rocks.
“We know that we’re the team that should come out and win this thing, but you still have to go out and prove it against a bunch of great curlers and great teams. I’m really just proud of the team, my guys, for hanging in there all week and playing the way they did and winning this thing.”
Team Jacobs, who play out of the Community First Curling Club, were the dominant team all week – not that it came as much of a surprise to the hundreds of fans who turned out to watch the event unfold at Fort William Curling Club.
They didn’t allow a single steal in eight games and only two games, their round-robin finale against the legendary Al Hackner and Sunday’s final, made it as far as the 10th end as they outscored their opponents by a combined 59-23 count.
It definitely wasn’t as easy as it looked.
“It never is,” said Jacobs, who won his second provincial title as a skip – and third overall – in Thunder Bay in 2011.
“It’s never easy and you can never take a break or any time off mentally when you’re playing in a big game like that. You just have to go out there and play it one shot at a time and hopefully you make everything.”
Neither side was perfect in the final, but the Jacobs rink, which also includes lead Ryan Harnden and third Ryan Fry, were able to minimize the damage.
Johnston was not.
In the second end, for example, his third Mike Badiuk missed on both his attempts, including what could have been a costly flash that left Jacobs laying four.
Johnston cleaned up most of the mess, but still gave up a deuce.
In the fourth another flash, this time by second Cody Johnston, helped Jacobs litter the ring with rocks and Johnston was deep on his draw, giving up a steal of one to trail 3-0.
The way the Jacobs foursome played this week, it was all but insurmountable and Johnston knew it.
“Our team didn’t play anywhere close to where we had to play for the first five ends. I’m surprised we stuck around. They were laying tons of rocks each and every end,” a disappointed Johnston said.
Jacobs took a 3-1 lead into the break, added two more in the sixth and coasted to a 6-3 win.
E.J. Harnden said despite the relative ease of their triumph, they weren’t taking anything for granted.
“We’re not naïve in the talent that we have in Northern Ontario. We know that some of these teams are great teams. They don’t tour as much as we do, but if they did, they would be as competitive as we are,” Harnden said. “We never take this event lightly.
“And there’s always that added pressure for us … We’ve always said this is probably the hardest game we play all year, the provincial final game. We know the talent and we know what the pressure is like.”
The Brier starts March 4 in St. John’s, N.L.