At the end of last season, Brad Jacobs and his teammates made a somewhat triumphant announcement that they would buck the trend in men’s curling and stay together.
Little did they know that by the end of 2018, the team would have a decidedly different look, at least for the short term.
Yet, through it all, the Jacobs team from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., remains one of the hottest on the planet.
The 2014 Olympic champions — minus their long-time third Ryan Fry — closed the year by winning the Canada Cup in Estevan, Sask., then going 4-0 in the round robin at the National before losing out in the quarter-finals of the Grand Slam event in Newfoundland.
For the Canada Cup, they had two-time Olympian Marc Kennedy at third, and for the National, they picked up former Mike McEwen teammate Matt Wozniak to play second, while E.J. Harnden moved up to play third.
“With all the news that hit about Ryan and how exhausting that was, and frustrating and just all-around unfortunate, we were able to take some of that energy and channel that and use it properly,” Jacobs said recently. “We were going in there with something to prove and did that.”
The news about Fry was not a positive for the Jacobs team, nor the curling world. Fry was part of a throw-together team for a second-tier event in Red Deer, Alta., and there was an incident of on-ice drunkenness that made international headlines.
To his credit, Fry has taken a step back to get help, and the men coming in to fill his shoes have been more than adequate.
Kennedy, who played in the 2018 Olympics with Kevin Koe, had taken a step back from the game himself, but showed no rust when he played in the Canada Cup.
“We were very fortunate to have a player as talented as Marc Kennedy step in and fill Fry’s shoes,” Jacobs said. “We played unbelievable right through the lineup from lead to skip. We felt like we were the best team all week but we still had to go out and prove it and we did that. I’m very proud of our team for being able to do that.”
As for Kennedy, who is working as a consultant/roving coach for Curling Canada this year, playing in the Canada Cup certainly got the juices flowing.
“It was a great week,” he said. “Lots of really, really positive things. I was lucky to jump on a team that was already playing very well, we meshed great together and I felt refreshed. Being out on that ice in a big event, I was excited, eager to play well. I had lots of energy and my body felt great. No complaints and everything worked out well.”