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Opening night at the 2024 Montana’s Brier in Regina

Much anticipated matchups, plus a performance in the Patch by the Reklaws, highlight Night One at the Brandt Centre.

REGINA - After several months of preparations as well as a major new naming-rights announcement, the Montana’s Brier is under way in Regina.

The Canadian men’s curling championship began ten days of action at the Brandt Centre, promising to be another showcase sporting event for Saskatchewan. For Regina, this is the sixth time they are hosting the Brier, the last time being 2018. 

In addition to the action on the ice Friday, there was plenty of action off the ice as well on Friday at the Brier Patch, which was open free of charge for the first night and headlined by star-studded entertainment from the Reklaws.

The action got under way Friday night at 6 p.m. sharp with four matchups, which included some highly anticipated ones. 

Sheet A saw the defending champion Team Canada led by Brad Gushue take on Matthew Manuel and Nova Scotia. Gushue is trying to win his third straight Brier title and his sixth overall, and also looking to repeat his team’s success from 2018 when they won the Brier title in Regina. On all counts his team got off to a good start, posting the 7-4 win.

 Sheet C hosted an all-Alberta matchup which also served as the feature game on TSN: four-time Brier winner Kevin Koe of Calgary versus the provincial champion Aaron Sluchinski team of Airdrie. Sluchinski had a 4-2 lead before Koe scored two in the seventh end to knot it up at 4-4. But Sluchinski took out three Koe rocks with one stone at the end of the eighth to take a 5-4 lead, and then stole one in the ninth to lead 6-4 going into the tenth, where Koe had the hammer. Needing two to win, instead it was Sluchinski who scored two as Koe's final shot sailed right through for an 8-4 win.

Sheet D saw Jamie Koe of the Northwest Territories versus Julien Tremblay of Quebec. Through seven ends that game was knotted up at 3-3 before Koe scored two in the eighth to take a 5-3 lead, eventually winning 7-4.

But most of the attention from the home crowd was on Sheet B,which saw the Tyler Smith team from PEI take on the home team of Mike McEwen and Team Saskatchewan. Through seven ends McEwen was up 6-5, but PEI tied it in the ninth. With last rock in the tenth, McEwen had to take out a PEI stone to get the win, nd did just that to secure a 7-6 opening game win to the delight of the partisan pro-Sask faithful.

McEwen, who is from Manitoba, skips the team from Nutana Curling Club which includes vice-skip Colton Flasch, second Kevin Marsh, lead Daniel Marsh and alternate Pat Simmons. Saskatchewan is trying to snap a Brier title drought of 44 years this year.

For Flasch it was his first Brier in Saskatchewan since coming back from Alberta. He said he enjoyed the experience.

"It was good, it was fun," said Flasch, who admitted they were a "little nervous early." 

But their veteran experience came through when it counted. Flasch gave credit to McEwen for helping them pull out the win.

"Mike played great, he held us in it today," said Flasch. "We're are felt fairly experienced. This is my seventh Brier and Mike's ninth so, we know what we're doing. This is the first one in front of a home crowd for three of us for sure. It's unique, and looking forward to the rest of the week."

McEwen told reporters the PEI team "pushed us really hard."

"Honestly, they played better than I expected," said McEwen. "I mean, they played well. I think they made one little calling mistake that gave us a steal of two that kind of came out of nowhere, but yeah, they were solid tonight, and we had to really dig deep to pull that out."

McEwen added that "you could tell the crowd was really into it. That's the best feeling in the world. It's like an adrenaline rush. So hopefully we can do that and I could get addicted to that all week, to keep doing that."

A full afternoon of action is set for Saturday with draws at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m., with three draws a day planned for Sunday and throughout the week.