Don’t call John Epping an underdog.
It may be his first Brier, but he’s been working for years to get here and his hard work is paying off.
Team Ontario is at the top of the heap with a record of 8-1 which is the same record as perennial favourites Brad Gushue and Brad Jacobs.
“I think a lot of people forget, I’ve been to three Olympic trials, four Canada Cups and those fields are even deeper than these fields,” said Epping after his 8-6 win over Nova Scotia Thursday night.
“This feels pretty good to us. The last two Canada Cups — which are the top seven in Canada — we won the bronze medal in the last two, so to us, we’re not surprised we’re in the mix.”
Perhaps more surprising is that for the first time since Epping’s team came together four years ago they were able to get past all-time great Glenn Howard at provincials, or as Epping calls it the “Glenn Howard Invitational” to make it here.
“It is the Glenn Howard Invitational, he’s only won it like 17 or 18 times,” Epping laughed. “We were just lucky enough to win the Glenn Howard Invitational this year.”
And getting past him gave Epping, as well as third Mathew Camm, second Pat Janssen and lead Tim March, the confidence they needed to be successful this week.
“It’s a huge hump, it was a huge hump for us mentally. We needed that,” Epping said. “My team played the best game we’ve ever played in the four years we’ve been together.”
Epping cut it close with his two games on Thursday, squeaking past Mike McEwen’s wild card team 8-7 at the 2 p.m. draw and getting past Nova Scotia 8-6 in the final end during the 7 p.m. but Epping isn’t sweating it. Grinding out wins gives his team confidence.
“That’s right in our wheelhouse, that is what we do best,” he stressed, before heading back to his hotel to “chug some water,” his voice getting raspier by the minute.
He’s done a lot of shouting over the last week.
“It’s dry in Saskatchewan!” he exclaimed before adding “it’s okay, I love playing here. It’s my favourite place to play actually.”