He may not have the name recognition that Brad Gushue or Mike McEwen do, but Brendan Bottcher and his rink are making those watching the Brier take notice.
Gushue, who skips Team Canada, and McEwen, who entered the Brier as the wild card team, are widely considered some of the top names in Canadian curler right now.
On Wednesday, the 26-year-old former junior world champion and his teammates — vice-skip Darren Moulding, second Brad Thiessen and lead Karrick Martin — toppled both of those teams.
Bottcher strung together an impressive 9-2 victory over McEwen and got past Canada 10-7. He knows that’s a heck of an accomplishment.
“Waking up the goal probably would have been a split and we would have been pretty happy, so to win them both is pretty awesome and sets us up well,” Bottcher said after the evening draw against McEwen.
It’s quite the swing for Bottcher and his team from last year’s Brier, where they went 3-7 and even from the Olympic trials where they were 4-4.
Bottcher said the trials, in particular, were an eye opener for them.
“(It) was a little disappointing we weren’t in the playoffs, I thought could have been. But that experience has taught us a tonne. I think we came in this week knowing we were the underdogs to a few of those top teams but also know that we could beat them.”
The Alberta rink enters Thursday’s championship pool with just one loss, and it came earlier in the week during the softer part of their schedule.
Bottcher said their turning point came during their match against B.C. when their opponents laid four in the third end. He said they just turned to each other and said we need to figure this out.
And they did, they came back to beat B.C. 9-8.
“We really ground our way through a few games that we could have easily lost and now I feel like we’re playing our best.”
“I’m feeling it. I’m not shy to say that,” Bottcher responded when asked if he would want to play his team right now. “I’m feeling (it) really well and I think the guys are playing really well in front of me.”
Alberta’s favourable 6-1 record follow them into the championship pool which starts Thursday afternoon with a game against Saskatchewan and continues into the evening with one against Manitoba.
He has lofty goals for this round hoping at the very worst his record would be 7-3 at the end, but would love to be 9-1.
“We’re just a young team that’s trying to be the next Brad Gushue or Brad Jacobs or Mike McEwen or Kevin Koe,” Bottcher said. “I feel like we’re doing all the right things and we’re putting in the time and hopefully that will materialize for us.”