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Smith has Islanders in the playoff mix at Montana’s Brier

Prince Edward Island Tyler Smith Tyler Smith - The Canadian Press

REGINA – Tyler Smith came into this year’s Montana’s Brier with four total wins over three career appearances at the Canadian men’s curling championship.

The 25-year-old skip from Prince Edward Island has matched that total over the last four days in Regina and has the small Maritime province in the playoff hunt for the first time in nearly three decades. 

After dropping their opening game against Saskatchewan’s Team Mike McEwen on Friday night, Smith’s rink from the Crapaud Curling Club has reeled off four-straight wins, capped off with a 10-5 rout of Quebec’s Team Julien Tremblay on Tuesday afternoon at Brandt Centre. 

“We’re getting a lot of support from back home,” Smith told the media after the victory. “People are becoming very, very interested because it’s been a while since PEI has been 4-1 at the Brier. So we just want to keep it going.”

The last time PEI made the playoffs at the Brier was in 1996 when Peter MacDonald skipped the province to a 6-5 round-robin record before defeating Newfoundland and Labrador’s Team Frank O'Driscoll in a tiebreaker. Team MacDonald would drop the page playoff 3 vs. 4-game to Quebec’s Team Don Westphal. 

The ’96 Brier also marked the last time PEI finished with a .500 or better record at nationals. 

Team Smith, rounded out by Adam Cocks at vice, Chris Gallant at second and Ed White at lead, still has tough matchups against Canada’s Team Brad Gushue (4-2), Alberta’s Team Kevin Koe (1-5) and Northwest Territories’ Team Jamie Koe (4-1) left on their schedule. 

The top three teams from each pool advance to the playoffs following the conclusion of round-robin play on Thursday. 

“It would be huge. I know growing up as a kid, I always loved watching the Brier and I was always rooting for Team PEI, obviously,” Smith said on the possibility of reaching the final six. “For us to be able to carry that torch and kind of go above expectations, I think will hopefully motivate some of younger people in PEI to put more effort in, train more, practice more. Hopefully we can produce some good talent in the future for years to come.”

Smith admitted his team may have been a little nervous over the first few ends against Quebec as the game was featured on TV, a rarity for PEI, especially this late into the tournament. 

“Maybe the boys were a little nervous, first time being on TV. Not sure,” said the skip. 

Smith, Cocks and White are making their third straight Brier appearance together while Gallant, brother of four-time Brier champ Brett, is making his first showing since 2018 when he played for Eddie Mackenzie.  

The team is coached by Paul Flemming, a veteran of 10 Briers with Nova Scotia. 

“The experience of being here for a few years now and everybody is just more comfortable with the atmosphere in general,” Smith said. “We’re just more prepared to play from the get-go.”

The battle for playoff spots in Pool B is still very much up in the air with at least five teams still in contention. 

Regardless of what happens over the next couple days, Smith knows they’ll leave Regina with a little more respect from the top contenders in men’s curling.

“I honestly believe that most of the teams around here knew what we were capable of. It was the consistency was the big problem. We’ve shown flashes of it last year, the year before a little bit. We’ve also showed some real ugly sides to our game,” said Smtih, who’s shooting 85 per cent for the tournament. “I think we’ve really tidied it up and we’re putting it all together. We’re getting a few breaks here and there which you need to do well in this event. Hopefully teams are starting to notice, and we gained a little bit of respect from them.”

Prince Edward Island are back on the ice Wednesday morning against the five-time Brier champs in Team Gushue.