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Quebec qualifies for playoffs at Brier with upset win over Alberta

Quebec skip Jean-Michel Menard celebrates after making his last shot to defeat Alberta 7-5 at the Tim Hortons Brier in Kamloops, B.C. on Friday, March 7.

Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Within the span of a minute or two, Saskatchewan was out and Quebec was in the playoffs at the Canadian men's curling championship, and only partly because of Jean-Michel Menard's 7-5 upset win over Kevin Koe of Alberta.

Even with Quebec's victory, Saskatchewan skip Steve Laycock was up one with the hammer and had an open draw against three to beat New Brunswick and force Menard into a tiebreaker. Laycock was heavy with the final stone and it proved costly.

"We knew that we had to win," said Laycock. "We knew it was in our control to try and get in that tiebreaker and just didn't finish that game out, a really poor last end."

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A complicated formula based on draws to the button was used to determine the seedings of the top three rinks.

Saskatchewan finished at 6-5, tied with Newfoundland and Labrador's Brad Gushue and New Brunswick's Jamie Grattan. Had Menard lost, there could have been a four-way tie for fourth place and a round of afternoon tiebreakers.

Instead he'll now get to play Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton on Saturday in the 3-4 Page playoff game.

Manitoba, Alberta and B.C.'s John Morris all finished at 9-2. Menard, the 2006 champion who's making his fifth Brier appearance for Quebec, was 7-4 although he beat each of the top three teams in the round robin.

"Our goal was to make it to the playoffs and there you never know what's going to happen ... if there's still some magic in our bag we'll try to use it," he said.

Menard seemed in control throughout the game and got a boost with a three-point end in the fifth. Koe, who was solid all week, finished with a 76 per cent rating and his teammates struggled as well.

Koe insisted he wasn't worried the same thing will happen when he faces Morris in the 1-2 Page playoff on Friday evening.

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"That end we gave up three was bad luck," said Koe. "I threw mine good, we had lots of options. You can hit about a millimetre where it just didn't work out for us and that's what happened for us. So that's just a bad break. Other than that we're throwing it good so I'm not really worried."

Laycock was making his fourth appearance at the Tim Hortons Brier although this was the first time he threw fourth stones and served as skip.

He was even with Grattan through seven, until a big three in the eighth end gave him a healthy lead. Grattan responded with a deuce in the ninth before taking the win, which left Laycock visibly upset afterwards.

Prince Edward Island's Eddie MacKenzie (4-7) finished the round robin with an 11-7 win over Jamie Koe of Northwest Territories/Yukon (3-8).

Ontario's Greg Balsdon (5-6) capped his Brier debut with a 9-6 win over Jamie Murphy's winless Nova Scotia team (0-11). Northern Ontario was also well back at 2-9.

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