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Koe vs. Koe in Page Playoff Game on TSN Saturday

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The Canadian Press
3/9/2012 1:29:52 PM
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SASKATOON -- The Territories tied for seventh in team shooting accuracy in the preliminary round at the Canadian men's curling championship.

So just how did Jamie Koe's Yellowknife Curling Club team snare the fourth and final playoff spot at the Tim Hortons Brier?

"They're sneaky good," Saskatchewan skip Scott Manners said earlier this week.

In curling speak, that means Koe and company made enough shots at the right times to win seven games.

The foursome representing both Yukon and Northwest Territories need all the stealth they can muster Saturday in a rematch with Alberta, skipped by Jamie's older brother Kevin.

Even with Alberta losing three of their last five heading into the playoffs, Saturday's game between the third and fourth seeds is still a mismatch on paper.

Kevin Koe is a former Canadian and world champion. This is the first time Jamie has reached the Brier playoffs in six tries. It's also the first time a Territories team qualified since playoffs were introduced into the format in 1980.

Kevin's Calgary rink beat Jamie's 8-3 two years ago en route to the Brier title in Halifax. They soundly thumped the Territories 11-3 in the preliminary round Wednesday.

"They've stomped us twice at the Brier," Jamie conceded. "Hopefully we can continue how we're playing. I think we've got a lot of confidence again. Hopefully we can put on a good show."

The winner of this second instalment of Koe versus Koe gets into Saturday's semifinal (TSN 8 p.m. ET). The victor meets the loser of Friday's playoff between top-ranked Glenn Howard of Ontario and second-seed Rob Fowler of Manitoba.

Alberta's shotmaking was graded 86 per cent accurate in the round-robin, compared to 81 per cent for the Territories.

The Territories' extra-end win over Ontario earlier in the tournament proved they're capable of beating a curling Goliath.

But Kevin Koe has more big-game experience to draw on than Jamie.

Even though Jamie has appeared in more national championships than his brother, Kevin plays more games against the elite teams during the season on the World Curling Tour. Kevin also has nine Canada Cups appearances and two Olympic curling trials on his resume.

"Kevin's been at this level and played these type of games for many, many years," their father Fred Koe said. "How he conducts himself out there, nothing seems to bother him. He's been there and that experience really shows.

"You need to have those games also during the year. You don't get that up north. Jamie misses a shot, you can see the emotion there."

Kevin took no joy in beating up his younger brother's team in the preliminary round, when it appeared the Territories' rosy bubble at the Brier was about to burst.

Since Jamie re-established himself as a threat, Kevin feels his brother has made quite enough history here and has fewer qualms about beating him again.

"That's OK when it's in the playoffs," Kevin said. "I was pulling for them even though I knew there was a chance we'd have to play them.

"It's a good story and hopefully it ends on Saturday."

Kevin, 37, was born in Edmonton and grew up in Yellowknife where Jamie and twin sister Kerry were born. Kevin moved to Alberta to attend university and has lived there since.

Fred has been a fixture high up in the Credit Union Centre stands this week, sometimes waving both Alberta and Northwest Territories flags simultaneously.

Jamie says mother Linda has returned to Yellowknife to watch their game at home. Sister Kerry, who has skipped the Territories at the Canadian women's championship eight times, was expected to arrive Friday.

The distance and cost of travelling to WCT events in the southern provinces is prohibitive for northern teams. Jamie Koe came up with a home-grown solution for his team's lack of experience on arena ice.

"Before, we really struggled on the big curl," he explained. "We just didn't see it. Our ice conditions are pretty straight.

"You come here and that's no good at all. Our coach is the icemaker. He puts in a ton of work. He's got one sheet there with a ton of hook. We've been really focusing on that for the last couple of years and it's paid off now."

Alberta arrived in Saskatoon a pre-tournament favourite. They opened the Brier 6-0, but third Pat Simmons is taking antibiotics for a respiratory infection that caught up to them later in the week.

"We're not quite as sharp," Kevin Koe said. "For sure not to make excuses, but Pat isn't feeling well and that affects a lot of different aspects of the game. A day off will probably help us."

Koe brothers (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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