CALGARY - A curling-mad province that hasn't won a Canadian men's championship in 35 years has produced a sort of fatalism there, according to this year's skip from Saskatchewan.
Steve Laycock says he doesn't feel the weight of expectation heading into Saturday's playoff game against a team with a former Saskatchewan skip.
"It's almost gotten to the point where it's been so long since we've won a Brier, there are no expectations anymore," Laycock said Friday. "When it's been that long, people are probably betting against it more than for it.
"It would be remarkable if we could pull that off. Maybe we could start a string of wins for Saskatchewan."
The last Saskatchewan team to win a Brier was Rick Folk in 1980.
Laycock doubled B.C.'s Jim Cotter 4-2 to claim the one playoff berth still empty in the final draw of the preliminary round Friday morning.
Northern Ontario's Brad Jacobs is a win away from his second Canadian men's curling championship in three years.
His Sault Ste. Marie foursome downed Brad Gushue of Newfoundland and Labrador 7-5 in Friday's Page playoff between the top two seeds.
Laycock and Team Canada, skipped by Pat Simmons, both finished 7-4. Saskatchewan gained the higher ranking by virtue of a round-robin win over Canada.
The winner of Saturday's playoff match will face the loser of the Jacobs-Gushue game in semifinal action later Saturday night.
Team Canada went 5-1 after John Morris demoted himself to third on the fourth day of the tournament. He handed skip duties to Simmons, who hadn't played that position since 2010.
But Simmons skipped Saskatchewan in four consecutive Briers from 2005 to 2008 before he began curling out of Alberta. Laycock played lead for Simmons in the 2007 and '08 Canadian championships.
"Pat's a great skip," Laycock said. "I know that from first-hand experience from a lot of years ago."
The 32-year-old compensation specialist at the University of Saskatchewan skipped his province at two previous Briers, but made the final four for the first time here.
Laycock, third Kirk Muyres, second Colton Flasch and lead Dallas Muyres represent the Nutana Curling Club in Saskatoon. They came agonizingly close to playoffs last year in Kamloops, B.C.
Tied coming home with the hammer in their final game, they gave up a steal of three to New Brunswick in a 9-7 loss. The foursome finished just outside the playoffs at 6-5.
"All four of us missed numerous shots," Kirk Muyres recalled. "The big thing is we recognized it and learned how to deal with that and made sure it didn't happen again.
"We said to ourselves 'If we get a chance to have this game again, we're going to do better.' We've done a ton of work in the last 12 months."
Laycock's runback with his final stone ran B.C.'s Cotter out of rocks. Saskatchewan's win avoided an abundance of tiebreaker games, as a loss would have put four teams tied for fourth at 6-5.
"We obviously didn't want to drop into tiebreakers with a couple of pretty good teams," the skip said. "Too avoid that and have a guaranteed spot in the playoffs feels great."
Kirk Muyres and Flasch are just 24 and last year's Tim Hortons Brier was their first. They felt more prepared for the preliminary round's highs and lows this time.
"It's huge to know what you're getting yourself into," Muyres said.
Alberta's Kevin Koe and Quebec's Jean Michel Menard finished 6-5 ahead of Prince Edward Island's Adam Casey, Ontario's Mike Kean, and B.C.'s Cotter all at 5-6.
Manitoba's Reid Carruthers was 4-7 and New Brunswick's Jeremy Mallais 2-9. Jamie Koe of Northwest Territories went winless. Northwest Territories is relegated to the pre-tournament qualifier in 2016 against Nova Scotia and Yukon.