Kevin Koe shoots a stone during the 12th draw of the Players' Championship on April 13, 2018. (Anil Mungal)

Koe keeps perfect record intact at Players’ Championship

April 13, 2018, 7:10 PM

TORONTO — It’s clear sailing into the Players’ Championship quarterfinals for Calgary’s Kevin Koe.

The Canadian Olympic rep topped the round-robin table with an unblemished 5-0 record following a 6-4 victory Friday afternoon over Edmonton’s Brendan Bottcher.

Team Koe also earned a 6-5 win against Winnipeg’s Reid Carruthers during the morning draw as a three-man crew. Koe was feeling ill and left after the third end with lead Ben Hebert and second Brent Laing throwing an extra rock each and third Marc Kennedy moving up to skip. Koe returned to the lineup for the match against Bottcher.

While Koe’s tear is impressive, it’s not quite like Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones, who finished first on the women’s side at 5-0 but is riding a 25-game win streak stretching back through the world championship and to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in February.

“It’s hard to keep up with Jenn’s team these days but we managed to so far in the round robin,” said Laing, who is married to Jones. “Great day today.”

After trailing 2-0 after two, Koe took control with a three-ender in the third and stole two in the fourth. The teams alternated singles in five and six. Bottcher was able to add another in seven but needed to steal two coming home and couldn’t pull it off.

It was all about keeping the momentum going and with the lure of having hammer advantage in the playoffs.

“Obviously knowing you’re already in the playoffs but wanting the hammer throughout when you have the opportunity to do that and keep playing well is what we wanted to do,” Laing said. “I think we did that. It wasn’t our best game but when it mattered we made some big shots and the momentum is still there heading into the weekend.”

Koe awaits the winner of a tiebreaker rematch between Toronto’s John Epping and American John Shuster.

Epping trumped the reigning Olympic gold medallist from Duluth, Minn., 8-2. Both Epping and Shuster finished round-robin play with 2-3 records and are heading straight back out for the next draw to settle things once and for all.

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Meanwhile, recently crowned world champ Niklas Edin of Sweden edged Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., 5-4 in an extra end.

The defending Players’ champion finished with a 4-1 record with his lone loss coming against Scotland’s Kyle Smith when Edin over-curled on his last in an extra to give up two and lose 7-5.

“Usually in that situation, we make those shots to win, so that was a big blow to our team,” Edin said. “We felt we played, well, it wasn’t our best game but we controlled the whole game, it felted like, and when we get the draw to win and miss it, it kind of forced us to focus and this game showed what we can do.”

Edin didn’t make the same mistake twice on his out-turn draw in OT to oust Jacobs.

“Both teams played a really well-played game and nice now getting a good team like that out,” Edin said. “At the same time, going 4-1, a good result and winning the last one before playoffs.”

Edin stole his way to a 3-0 lead swiping singles in the first three ends. Jacobs jumped back into things with a deuce in the fourth and forced Edin to a single in five.

Looking at two counters in the sixth, Edin went for the risky raise takeout on a Jacobs guard and eliminated all three stones that left his opponent without any options other than to throw his last away.

“We actually whoaed it at the end there so it felt really good,” Edin said. “We wanted to make sure and then added some speed. While the triple was there, it’s just a much better result than getting one of them out and giving up two then it’s still a really close game. Getting the triple was key to winning the game, I think.”

Jacobs blanked again in seven to retain the hammer coming home and made a soft tap to bump back Edin’s stone and score a deuce in eight to force the extra.

Elsewhere, world silver medallist Brad Gushue (4-1) of St. John’s, N.L., ousted Carruthers 7-6.

Jacobs, Bottcher and Carruthers were all still in it to start the draw but were eliminated from playoff contention with identical 1-4 records.

Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen (3-2) qualified for the playoffs with a 7-4 victory over Smith. Both Smith and compatriot Bruce Mouat advanced with their 2-3 records based on their pre-game draw-to-the-button shootout scores.

The final women’s round-robin draw, plus the Epping vs. Shuster tiebreaker, goes down at 8 p.m. ET at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre with online streaming available at Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and Yare TV (international). An encore presentation will air on Sportsnet One Saturday at 6:30 a.m. ET.