Photo: Team Alberta with the Brier trophy (Photo: Greg Kolz)

For the third time in his career, Kevin Koe will skip Team Canada at the World Curling Championships after winning the Brier on Sunday night in Ottawa, defeating Newfoundland’s Brad Gushue 9-5.

Seeking his first victory in his 13th Brier appearance, Gushue had the hammer to open the game, but gave up one point steals in each of the first two ends, which set the tone for the night. Koe made it 4-1 in the fourth before Gushue clawed back to get within one after six ends. But Koe’s Calgary-based rink broke it open with a three-spot in the seventh, taking a 7-3 lead. Gushue got two in the eighth, but two more by Koe in the ninth led to handshakes to end the match.

It was the 27th Brier victory for Alberta, tying it with Manitoba for most ever.

“Pretty special feeling when you can win a Brier, especially one this tough,” said Koe. “So many good teams here. We had an awesome week. Huge for our team. We struggled last year so to come back and have a good year and top it off with a Brier is awesome.”

“I think we can take some consolation in the fact that they played really good. I don’t think we necessarily came out here and lost it,” said Gushue, the 2006 Olympic gold medallist. “Credit gotta go to Kevin and his group, they played a phenomenal game, they’re a great team and a great representative for Canada.”

Kevin Koe (third from left) calls a stone as Brad Gushue (first from left) looks on at the Brier final on March 13, 2016 (Photo: Greg Kolz).

Kevin Koe (third from left) calls a stone as Brad Gushue (first from left) looks on at the Brier final on March 13, 2016 (Photo: Greg Kolz).

Koe, with third Marc Kennedy, second Brent Laing and lead Ben Hebert, will now head to the World Curling Championships in Basel, Switzerland, April 2-10. The foursome will also get to defend their Brier title next year on Gushue’s home ice in St. John’s.

Koe won the world title in 2010 (with Blake MacDonald, Carter Rycroft and Nolan Thiessen) and finished fourth in 2014 (with Pat Simmons, Rycroft and Thiessen). His current teammates, with whom he joined forces for the 2014-15 season also have a wealth of experience. Kennedy and Hebert won Olympic gold at Vancouver 2010 with Kevin Martin while Laing won two world titles with Glenn Howard.

Team Alberta skip Kevin Koe throws a stone against Team Canada at the Brier curling championship in Ottawa on March 10, 2016. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)

Team Alberta skip Kevin Koe throws a stone against Team Canada at the Brier curling championship in Ottawa on March 10, 2016. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)

So how does Koe’s victory impact Canada’s Olympic qualification process for PyeongChang 2018?

The Brier winner is supposed to earn direct entry into the 2017 Olympic Trials, better known as the Roar of the Rings, provided they win a medal at the upcoming world championships. The same is true for this year’s winner of the women’s national championship, the Tournament of Hearts, Calgary’s Chelsea Carey.

But Koe was already qualified for the Trials by virtue of winning the 2015 Canada Cup this past December. Instead, the spot set aside for the 2016 Brier champion will go to the highest non-qualified team on the 2016-17 CTRS (Canadian Team Ranking System) as of May 1, 2017.

Kevin Koe and Team Alberta hold up the Brier Tankard trophy on March 13, 2016.

Kevin Koe and Team Alberta hold up the Brier Tankard trophy on March 13, 2016.

Here’s how the rest of the men’s and women’s nine-team fields will be completed:

  1. Winners of 2015 Canada Cup (Men: Kevin Koe / Women: Rachel Homan)
  2. Winners of 2016 Brier / Tournament of Hearts, with medal at 2016 World Championships (Men: TBD as Koe is already qualified / Women: Chelsea Carey)
  3. Winners of 2016 Canada Cup
  4. Winners of 2017 Brier / Tournament of Hearts, with medal at 2017 World Championships
  5. CTRS leaders for 2015-17 (2 year total)
  6. CTRS leaders for 2016-17 (1 year total)
  7. CTRS runners-up for 2016-17 (1 year total)
  8. Pre-Trials Qualifiers
  9. Pre-Trials Qualifiers
Team Brad Jacobs celebrates gold at Sochi 2014 Olympic Games.

Team Brad Jacobs celebrates gold at Sochi 2014 Olympic Games.

There are 12 teams that will get to participate in each of the men’s and women’s 2017 Olympic Pre-Trials, otherwise known as the Road to the Roar. They include:

  1. Winners of 2014 Canada Cup (Men: Mike McEwen / Women: Val Sweeting)
  2. Highest ranked teams on 2014-15 CTRS, not already qualified (Men: Brad Jacobs / Women: Jennifer Jones)
  3. Highest ranked team on 2015–16 CTRS not already qualified
  4. Highest ranked team on 2015–16 CTRS not already qualified
  5. Highest ranked team on 2015–16 CTRS not already qualified
  6. Highest ranked team on 2015–16 CTRS not already qualified
  7. Highest ranked team on 2016–17 CTRS not already qualified
  8. Highest ranked team on 2016–17 CTRS not already qualified
  9. Highest ranked team on 2016–17 CTRS not already qualified
  10. Highest ranked team on 2016–17 CTRS not already qualified
  11. Highest ranked team on 2015–17 (2 years) CTRS not already qualified
  12. Highest ranked team on the 2015–17 (2 years) CTRS not already qualified

The CTRS counts a team’s best eight tournament results, including stops on the World Curling Tour and Grand Slam of Curling as well as provincial playdowns and the national championships.

Prior to the Brier, Gushue was leading the CTRS for 2015-16 with Koe second, and a pair of Manitoba rinks, Mike McEwen and Reid Carruthers, in third and fourth. Rachel Homan leads the women’s 2015-16 CTRS standings with Jennifer Jones second, Val Sweeting third and Carey fourth.