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Victory vaults Fowler team to playoffs

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SASKATOON -- Brandon’s Rob Fowler has become just the second Manitoba team in history from outside Winnipeg to qualify for the Brier playoffs.

With a 10-4 victory here over Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs Thursday afternoon, Fowler’s Manitoba foursome finishes their round-robin with a record of 8-3 and have now guaranteed themselves no worse than a third-place finish and a berth and the hammer in Saturday’s page playoff 3 vs 4 game.

It was Fowler’s fourth consecutive victory and the skip spoke afterward about peaking at the right time. "It was a strong finish. We dropped a couple of games early, but in two of those three (losses) I had shots to basically break the game open. And in all of the games, the team’s played very good.

"So it’s really been a consistent performance in all 11 games and to finish off strong and get to 8-3 is a good spot to be in."

Fowler shot 88 per cent in the win over Northern Ontario -- and his team as a whole shot 91 per cent.

Fowler could still finish as high as second place -- and earn a berth into Friday night’s 1 vs 2 game -- if Alberta’s Kevin Koe loses tonight to first place Glenn Howard of Ontario.

Koe defeated Nova Scotia’s Jamie Murphy 8-3 Thursday afternoon to improve to 8-2 to retain second place. A loss to Ontario (9-1) tonight would mean Alberta also finishes the round-robin at 8-3, but Manitoba won the head-to-head matchup between the teams Wednesday night and would be awarded second place in that scenario.

The top four teams at the conclusion of tonight’s round-robin advance to the playoffs. With Ontario, Alberta and Manitoba now in, only the fourth-place team must now be determined and that’s become a two-team race between Northern Ontario (5-5) and the Territories (6-4).

The Territories have clinched at least a tiebreaker already and would clinch fourth place with a win over BC on the final round-robin draw tonight. But if the Territories lose to BC and Northern Ontario beats Saskatchewan, both teams would finish at 6-5 and would play a tiebreaker on Friday to determine fourth place.

The only other Manitoba team not based out of Winnipeg to compete in the Brier playoffs since playoffs were first introduced at the 1980 Brier was Mel Logan of Souris in 1982. Logan finished the round-robin that week at 6-5 and won a tiebreaker game but lost the semi-final.

Prior to the introduction of playoffs at the Brier, Ab Gowanlock also won the Brier twice while curling out of rural Manitoba. Gowlanlock won a Canadian men’s curling championship curling out of Glenboro in 1938 and then won it all again in 1953, curling out of Dauphin.

In addition to being the fourth win in a row for Fowler, the win over Northern Ontario was also the second time he’s won in two days when Manitoba was the feature game on TSN. Fowler started the week at 0-3 as the TSN feature game.

The ability to win under the hottest lights will be key for Manitoba moving forward. All the playoff games are broadcast live on TSN.

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