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Koe spoils B.C. party with Brier win

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KAMLOOPS, B.C. — Alberta’s Kevin Koe won his second Canadian men’s curling championship in four years — and the eighth for Alberta since 2001 — with a 10-5 victory over B.C.’s John Morris in the final of the Tim Hortons Brier on Sunday evening.

Koe authored three-enders in the second, fifth and seventh ends and his Calgary foursome — third Pat Simmons, second Carter Rycroft and lead Nolan Thiessen (who grew up in Pilot Mound, Man.) — simply outplayed a B.C. squad that was the best team here all week long, except when it mattered most.

B.C. vice-skip Jim Cotter, in particular, struggled, getting outshot 92-82 by Koe in the final.

"Jimmy had some uncharacteristic misses. We were fortunate," Koe said after the game. "And when he did have them, we were able to capitalize."

The Alberta victory spoiled what was widely expected to be a B.C. party on Sunday. A sold-out crowd that jammed the Interior Savings Centre to the rafters was expecting to celebrate what would have been the first Brier title for the province since 2000.

But instead it was more of the same as Alberta continued to dominate a championship that has been that province’s playground since Randy Ferbey began a run in 2001 that has now seen Alberta win eight of the last 14 Briers.

The victory is also Alberta’s 26th overall, bringing the province to within one of the record 27 won by Manitoba. Alberta could tie that record on home ice in next year’s Brier, which will be held in Calgary and for the first time will include two Alberta teams.

With the win, Koe earned the right to return to the Brier next year as defending champion playing under the Team Canada banner, a new innovation for the Brier being implemented for the first time in 2015.

That’s assuming, however, the Koe team stays together. The foursome was widely rumoured in the lead up to this year’s Brier to be breaking up after this winter, although those plans could change with all the money and opportunities that will now come their way as Team Canada.

Koe was non-commital Sunday night, while Rycroft confirmed he is not curling next season.

"I haven’t thought that much through," said Koe. "All we’re going to worry about now is the worlds and being Team Canada at the worlds."

Koe will represent Canada at the world men’s curling championship in Beijing at the end of the month.

Morris, who also lost the final of the Roar of the Rings in December, said his team got fooled by changed ice conditions in the final and never did get on track.

"We just got fooled. The ice curled more than it did all week," said Morris. "It’s painful losing this final and the Olympic Trials final, they sting. You can’t pinpoint exactly where it went wrong, but I just want to emphasize how proud I am of our team doing what we’ve done all year."

LOOSE HAIRS — Total attendance for the Brier was 65,005. That’s barely half the 127,746 that attended the last time the Brier was held in Kamloops in 1996 and it makes this year’s Brier the worst attended since 1988... The MVP of the final was Rycroft, who shot 96 per cent... The first-team Brier all-stars are B.C. lead Rick Sawatsky, third John Morris and vice-skip Jim Cotter, and Manitoba second Mark Nichols.

Twitter: @PaulWiecek

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