Wild Card Two’s Kevin Koe defeated Manitoba’s Jason Gunnlaugson 12-4 on Saturday afternoon to secure at least a playoff tiebreaker at the Canadian men’s curling championship.

CALGARY — A set of freshly papered rocks worked out just fine for Wild Card Two’s Kevin Koe on Saturday afternoon.
He defeated Manitoba’s Jason Gunnlaugson 12-4 to secure at least a playoff tiebreaker at the Canadian men’s curling championship.
Koe had two early three-point ends in a game that was conceded after the minimum eight ends. He improved to 9-2 and moved into sole possession of first place in the championship pool standings.
“Every game is huge obviously,” said Koe third B.J. Neufeld. “We came into today knowing that if we win both our games, then we’re in the final. So that’s what we’re focused on. This is the first step of that.”
Wild Card Three’s Wayne Middaugh fell into a second-place tie after dropping a 6-3 decision to Canada’s Brad Gushue, creating a four-way logjam at 8-3 entering the evening draw.
They were joined by Saskatchewan’s Matt Dunstone and Alberta’s Brendan Bottcher. Dunstone edged Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs 5-4 and Bottcher downed Ontario’s John Epping 8-3.
The top three teams will advance to Sunday’s playoffs. The second- and third-place teams will meet in an afternoon semifinal with the winner to face the top seed in the evening final.
Middaugh, originally tabbed as an alternate, is throwing fourth stones for Glenn Howard’s Ontario-based team, which was caught off-guard by the sanding of rocks between draws.
A post on the Howard team’s official Twitter account said it was not advised beforehand. Sanded stones have a significant effect on a rock’s curling tendency and speed.
Curling Canada issued a statement on the rock issue late Saturday afternoon.
The federation said the stones were sanded late Friday night in response to player comments that there was less curl in the later ends. Curling Canada admitted there was a regrettable “communication breakdown” and that teams were not informed ahead of Saturday’s games.
Each team had its usual nine minutes of practice time beforehand to get used to the new rocks. Curling Canada said it will “review its procedures going forward” to address the communication issue.
Epping was alone in sixth place at 7-4 but still had a chance at the playoffs. Jacobs and Gunnlaugson will miss the cut at 6-5.
A variety of tiebreaker scenarios were in play entering the evening draw. Late night and early morning tiebreakers were a possibility along with a double semifinal if there’s a four-way tie for first place.
Gushue won the Tim Hortons Brier last year in Kingston, Ont. He has won the national title three times in the last four years.
The Brier winner will represent Canada at the world men’s curling championship next month in the same Canada Olympic Park venue.