KAMLOOPS. B.C. -- Alberta's Kevin Koe will play B.C.'s John Morris for a Canadian men's curling championship in the final of the Tim Hortons Brier today (6:30 p.m., TSN).
Koe advanced to the final with an 9-8 extra-end victory over Quebec's Jean-Michel Menard in Saturday evening's semifinal.
Menard had advanced to the semifinal with a 7-6 victory over Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton in the Page playoff 3 vs. 4 game earlier on Saturday and Quebec had the distinction of having beaten all three of the other playoff teams during the round robin.
But just as it was looking like Menard had perhaps once again bottled the underdog magic that carried him to an upset win at the 2006 Brier, he ran headfirst into a Koe team who were on their game early Saturday night, authoring deuces in the first, third and fifth ends to seemingly take control at 6-3 heading into the fifth-end break.
But Quebec clawed their way back into the game -- tying the score 6-6 with a steal of two in the seventh end and then sending the game to an extra end when Menard made a double takeout for a game-tying deuce with the last rock of the 10th.
But it all proved too little too late as Koe needed only full 8-foot with the final rock of the extra end to score the game-winner and send his team to its third Brier final since 2010.
The Alberta semifinal win snapped a two-game losing skid that saw Koe lose his last round-robin game Friday morning to Quebec and then the 1-2 game Friday night to B.C.
But the heavy lifting is just now beginning for a Koe foursome who must now take on a B.C. squad that looked almost unbeatable in the 1-2 game Friday night as vice-skip Jim Cotter served up a steady diet of double and triple takeouts that had fans still shaking their heads in wonder on Saturday.
B.C. will also have a big and partisan crowd on their side in the final. While attendance has been dismal here this week -- just 51,388 attended the first 19 draws -- and this Brier will go down as the worst attended since 1988 -- organizers say there will be standing room only for the final as B.C. attempts to win its first Brier title since 2000.
A Brier win by Alberta tonight would be the province's 26th all-time and bring them to within one of the record 27 won by Manitoba.
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @PaulWiecek