New third Janssen fitting right in as defending champion Bottcher team rolls through Brier


Article content

As a replacement player on a team that won a national curling championship a year ago, Pat Janssen has a lot to live up to at the 2022 Tim Hortons Brier.

advertisement 2

Article content

“I would be lying if I didn’t say I was feeling a little bit of pressure coming into this,” Janssen said Wednesday from the Brier in Lethbridge, Alta.

“Coming in as Team Canada and wearing the Maple Leaf, there’s that bit of added pressure to perform with the guys, but we’re embracing it right now and we’re playing really well.”

Janssen is the third on the Brendan Bottcher team out of Edmonton. He was the team’s fifth player for the last two seasons but was elevated to third when Darren Molding was cut shortly after the Olympic trials, in early December.

Janssen, a 34-year-old from Pickering, Ont., has fit in very well.

Though the Brier is his first event as a full-time player this year — and first as vice-skip for Team Bottcher — he played very well in helping Team Canada get off to a 6-0 start.

advertisement 3

Article content

“I feel like I’ve fit in perfectly well with the guys, since I’ve been around them for two years now,” said Janssen, who was curling 85% heading into the evening draw, a number that was fourth best among all vice-skips in the Brier.

“It’s been a really easy transition for me. They haven’t played since the trials and I hadn’t played since two weeks before that, at a mixed doubles event. Coming out here and feeling as good as we are, I can’t argue with the spot we’re in right now.”

Team Canada improved to 6-0 with an 8-7 extra-end win over previously unbeaten Matt Dunstone (Wild Card 2) on Wednesday morning at Enmax Centre.

The team had a chance to clinch first place in Pool A Wednesday night, but wound up falling 5-4 to Alberta’s Kevin Koe. That left both teams at 6-1 and both have locked up spots in the playoffs.

advertisement 4

Article content

Essentially, it seems like this Bottcher team, which has played in four straight Brier finals, has not missed a beat, despite the ugly break-up with Moulding.

“I can’t say enough good things about how well Pat has been doing, how well he has fit in with the group, how he has taken all that pressure on his shoulders and has just been doing great,” said Bottcher, who also curls with Brad Thiessen and Karrick Martin.

“Dynamic-wise, there was no question. That just speaks to (Janssen’s) character. All of us have just been relaxed and energized and excited.”

GOOD RIDDANCE TICK SHOTS

So far in the Brier, there have been three extra-end games and all of them were won by the team with the hammer.

In fact, in high-level men’s curling, the team with the hammer in the extra end wins about 90% of the time.

advertisement 5

Article content

However, all that will likely soon change in a move the curlers seem to support wholeheartedly.

At the world men’s and women’s championships this year, a “no-tick” rule will be instituted by the World Curling Federation, meaning that rocks in the free-guard zone that are on the center line cannot be moved.

“It will make an enormous difference,” Dunstone said.

“The chances of winning without the hammer will go from seven percent to 30-40%.

“It’s a great thing for the sport. It actually makes overtime in curling somewhat exciting, because right now it’s snoozefest.”

Tick ​​shots are currently used by teams with the hammer to remove free-guard zone rocks from the center line but not completely out of play. It’s a real skill that leads have, but it creates a situation where there’s very little drama in the rest of the end.

advertisement 6

Article content

“The tick shot is getting made so much that in those extra ends, it feels like the game is close, but the team with the hammer wins 19 times out of 20,” said Bottcher, who benefitted from two tick shots by Martin to beat Dunstone in an extra end on Wednesday.

“They do have to do something to make that extra end a little bit more even. The no-tick rule would definitely go about that.”

Curling Canada has not yet adopted the “no tick-shot” rule, but it generally follows in suit with WCF rule changes. If this one gets approved after getting trialled at the worlds, it’s like to come into play in Canada next season.

“I think it will change the game in a big way,” Janssen said. “It’s going to change how teams play the late ends and it’s gonna bring some offensive into the game for sure.

Advertisement 7

Article content

If you get two stones on the center line and you can’t move them at all, it causes a mess to happen.

“It’s good for the game. Right now, when the game is tied, it’s kind of ‘tick, tick, boom’ and it’s kinda boring for fans. You almost don’t even have to watch.”

DUNSTONE IN ‘GOOD SPOT’

After taking home bronze from the Brier in 2020 and 2021, Dunstone is eager to change the color of his medal at this year’s Canadian championship.

He and teammates Braeden Moskowy, Kirk Muyres and Dustin Kidby are looking very much like contenders, despite the setback against Bottcher on Wednesday.

Dunstone is now 6-1 and has been curling extremely well — sitting third amongst all skips at 89%.

“We’re still in a good spot and we’re playing good enough to win this thing,” the 26-year-old Regina-based skip said.

advertisement 8

Article content

“We’re just oozing with confidence, to be honest. We’re really happy with the ice, really happy with where the team is at. We felt super ready coming into the event and we’re very calm still.”

Dunstone had a chance to clinch first place in Pool A with a win over Bottcher Wednesday morning, but fell just short. The Koe win over Bottcher Wednesday night kept Dunstone in the mix to finish in first place, with all three teams at 6-1.

However, Dunstone will still need a win over Colton Flasch of Saskatchewan on Thursday afternoon in order to lock up his spot in the playoffs. A Saskatchewan win would be a tiebreaker game into play.

“We didn’t have our best stuff today (against Bottcher),” Dunstone said. “We brought our B-game and we still took one of the best teams in the world, the defending champs, to last rock in an extra end. I think that goes to show what our team is all about. We’re very resilient, even when we don’t have our best stuff out there.”

Brad Gushue (Wild Card 1) is the only unbeaten team remaining in the tournament, at 6-0. The team from Newfoundland is the only one in Pool B to have locked up a playoff spot.

Brad Jacobs of Northern Ontario (5-2), Wild Card 3’s Jason Gunnlaugson (5-2) and Manitoba’s Mike McEwen (4-2) all remain in the hunt for the playoffs.

[email protected]

Twitter.com/Ted_Wyman

advertisement 1

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user follows comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your e-mail settings.



Leave a Comment