Brad Jacobs heading home from Brier early and empty-handed

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — Brad Jacobs had changed into gray pants and a blue shirt, and he was pulling a black rolling bag behind him, ready to get out of the Enmax Center as soon as he could.

Minutes earlier, the skip from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., had walked off the ice and headed straight for the dressing room to change out of his green and yellow Northern Ontario uniform. His Brier was over, and far earlier than the 36-year-old or anyone else would’ve predicted for the team ranked third in Canada and fifth in the world.

“Not sure why you want me,” Jacobs said, just after he left that rolling bag and walked over to a table to address media.

Team Jacobs had finished the round-robin here second overall in Pool B, earning a Friday afternoon tilt against Colton Flasch’s Saskatchewan rink. But the game went sideways early: In the fourth end, Saskatchewan scored four.

That was the turning point, Jacobs said: “When we picked our own out and we gave them a free open draw for four.”

The game officially ended after seven ends, 10-3 in favor of Saskatchewan.

“Pretty frustrated,” Jacobs said, afterwards, with his hands buried in his zipped-up winter coat. “That was just a really poor performance, and not like us, that’s for sure.”

The final four teams standing at the Brier are Team Canada (skipped by Brendan Bottcher), Team Alberta (Kevin Koe), Wild Card No. 1 (Brad Gushue) and Flasch’s Team Saskatchewan. Bottcher said he’d expected Jacobs to still be in the running for the national championship at this stage. The final is set for Sunday night.

“They were in the final of the [Olympic] Trials, so a lot of people would’ve penciled them in to be in the hunt here, so it’s a little bit of a surprise,” Bottcher said. “But, you know, there’s probably six to eight teams here that are plenty good enough to win, so if you come out and you don’t play your best, they can definitely knock you down.”

Team Jacobs — Marc Kennedy at third, EJ Harnden at second and lead Ryan Harnden — got knocked down earlier than usual, too. The two teams shook hands after seven ends, while every other Brier game, including an 18-1 Manitoba routing of Nunavut earlier in the bonspiel, had to go the minimum eight ends, per Curling Canada rules.

“We got outplayed,” said Jacobs, who won the Brier back in 2013 and Olympic gold a year later. “Flasch’s team played great. Gotta hand it to them. I didn’t think they had that type of game in them, quick frankly. I was waiting for them to give us chances like they gave [Matt] Dunstone a million times [earlier in the bonspiel], but they didn’t. So hats off to them and best of luck.”

Flasch curled a sparkling 95 per cent and his team overall performed at 88 per cent, in contrast to Jacobs’ bonspiel-low 55 per cent, and his team’s 78 per cent.

As he was talking, Jacobs excused himself for a quick second to see why his phone was buzzing. His kids were calling. He’d get back to Camille and Cale when he was done with media.

Jacobs knew his team’s run at the Brier was over when the game hit its midway point on Friday.

“I said, ‘Good game, guys. That’s it. Packin’ ‘er in,'” he said. “Seven-one, down six points with five ends to go against a great Canadian team like that, you’ve got no luck.”

Jacobs then grabbed his bag and walked out of the arena. He’d packed ‘er in, and his run at the Brier was over.

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