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Alberta's Bottcher edges Saskatchewan's Dunstone 6-5 to reach Brier final

CALGARY — Alberta's Brendan Bottcher hit a game-winning angle raise for a 6-5 win over Saskatchewan's Matt Dunstone in Sunday's semifinal at the Canadian men's curling championship.

CALGARY — Alberta's Brendan Bottcher hit a game-winning angle raise for a 6-5 win over Saskatchewan's Matt Dunstone in Sunday's semifinal at the Canadian men's curling championship.

Bottcher removed the Saskatchewan stone from the button with his final throw and stuck around to score two points for the victory. 

"Obviously it was a super-difficult shot," Bottcher said. "But those are the moments we're playing for, for those kind of shots. It's really going to take that degree of difficulty, those kind of shots, to win this thing.

"I hope we can carry that forward and keep the momentum going this evening."

Bottcher advanced to Sunday night's final against Wild Card Two's Kevin Koe at the Markin MacPhail Centre. 

Bottcher has reached the last three Tim Hortons Brier finals but has settled for silver each time. Dunstone was hoping to reach his first career Brier final after winning bronze last year.

"There's nothing to hang our heads about," Dunstone said. "It was a world-class game. They played awesome and we played awesome. 

"The curling gods were wearing a blue sweater today. That's all there is to it. It totally stinks but this isn't the end of us."

The last Saskatchewan team to win the Brier was skipped by Rick Folk in 1980.

Koe has a chance to become the first skip to win five career Brier titles. He's currently tied with Ernie Richardson, Randy Ferbey and Kevin Martin with four.

Both teams played a tentative style at the start of the semifinal. Singles dominated the scoresheet with Bottcher picking up a steal in the eighth end after Dunstone rolled out on a hit to give Alberta a 4-3 lead.

Dunstone rebounded with the first deuce of the game before Bottcher answered with the winning pair.

Koe's Alberta-based team finished first in the championship pool with a 10-2 record. Dunstone and Bottcher were next at 9-3. 

Two extra wild-card entries were added to the field this season. Manitoba-based Mike McEwen took the first wild-card spot and Koe and Ontario-based Glenn Howard took the other entries.

The field was expanded to 18 teams for this season only to accommodate teams that didn’t get an opportunity to compete in provincial/territorial playdowns due to the pandemic.

Koe, who last won the Brier in 2019, can become the first hometown winner since Brad Gushue won in St. John's, N.L., in 2017. Gushue defended his crown the following year and also won last season.  

The 2021 Brier winner will represent Canada at the April 2-11 world men's curling championship in the same venue.

The national champion also gets a berth in the Olympic Trials in November and $100,000 of the $300,000 total purse. 

Bottcher was named the winner of the Ross Harstone sportsmanship award earlier Sunday. Alberta second Brad Thiessen was named a first-team all-star along with Gushue, Saskatchewan third Braeden Moskowy and Wild Card Two lead Ben Hebert. 

Koe was named to the second-team all-star list with teammate B.J. Neufeld at third, Canada second Brett Gallant and Northern Ontario lead Ryan Harnden.

Manitoba-based Kerri Einarson successfully defended her Canadian women's title last month in the first event in the Calgary bubble. 

She'll represent Canada at the April 30-May 9 world women's curling championship. That competition is slated to be the seventh and final event in the Canada Olympic Park hub.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 14, 2021. 

The Canadian Press

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