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Bottcher beats Dropkin to stay in contention at HearingLife Tour Challenge

NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. — Brendan Bottcher and his Calgary-based club are now playing the waiting game in the HearingLife Tour Challenge.

Bottcher downed Team Korey Dropkin 8-2 Friday afternoon to finish their round-robin schedule with a 2-2 record and remain in playoff contention for now.

The world No. 1 Bottcher will have to wait until the last men’s draw in the evening to find out his fate as draw-to-the-button shootout totals may come into play.

So, we’re telling them there’s a chance.

Team Bottcher would like to continue their hot start to the season that has seen them win three titles on tour already.

“This has been a fantastic, fun season,” said Marc Kennedy, who throws third for Team Bottcher. “I think we can all feel things really starting to come together as a group. We’ve been working really hard, starting to talk the same language, developing a team identity and we’re tough to beat. A great season so far, we’ll try to keep it going.”

Dropkin, who won last year’s HearingLife Tour Challenge Tier 2 title, opened with the hammer but was forced to draw to the button for just a single in the first end.

It looked like Dropkin had shot rock frozen in the second, but Bottcher was able to pop and unlock it to score a critical three points.

Dropkin (1-3) jammed in the third to settle for another single and struggled on his draws in the fifth and sixth as Bottcher was able to score a deuce and then steal three that put the game out of reach.

“I feel like that was a pretty big game for our team,” Kennedy said. “We’ve struggled with a couple of tough losses against some great teams and knew that we had to come out with a good performance and we did. Build a little bit of momentum and hopefully sneak into the playoffs.

“It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster week, but I think it’s good for our team to experience those. When things aren’t going great, to be able to rebound with a good game is important.”

While Bottcher has his fingers crossed, the other three winners across the sheets during Draw 14 are all clear through to the quarterfinals.

Winnipeg’s Team Matt Dunstone (3-1) doubled up on Team Aaron Sluchinski of Airdrie, Alta., 4-2.

Team Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., also qualified at 3-1 with a 7-3 victory over Norway’s Team Magnus Ramsfjell.

Sluchinski and Ramsfjell are both in the same boat as Bottcher with 2-2 records.

Team Yannick Schwaller and his Swiss side qualified straight through to the playoffs with a 3-1 record. Schwaller secured his third consecutive win with an 8-2 victory over Team Wouter Gösgens of the Netherlands.

Benoît Schwarz-van Berkel, who throws the last rocks for Team Schwaller, said it feels very good as it’ll be their fifth consecutive playoff appearance in the Grand Slam of Curling series.

“We played tough teams that we beat so it always gives you confidence I think not just for this event but for the whole season,” he said. “So far, so good.”

After scoring a deuce in the first, Schwaller stretched his lead to 4-0 with a steal of two in the second. Gösgens (0-4) was limited to a single in the third and Schwaller counted another couple of points in the fourth. Schwaller forced Gösgens to another single in the fifth and tacked two more points on the board in the sixth for early handshakes.

Schwarz-van Berkel said it’s huge to finish 3-1 to not only avoid the messy group at 2-2 but also possibly get the hammer to start in the quarterfinals.

“We played well this morning,” said Schwarz-van Berkel, who threw an outstanding game-high 98 per cent. “I think those guys probably didn’t have their best game, I’m sure they would agree. We are very happy with our performance right now.”

HEARINGLIFE TOUR CHALLENGE: Scores/Standings | Draw Schedule | Broadcast Schedule


• Team Eun-Jung Kim 8, Team Nancy Martin 1

• Team Corrie Hürlimann 4, Team Serena Gray-Withers 3

• Team Ikue Kitazawa 7, Team Madeleine Dupont 3

• Team Jolene Campbell 7, Team Isabelle Ladouceur 4


The HearingLife Tour Challenge continues with Draw 15 at 3:30 p.m. ET / 12:30 p.m. PT on Sportsnet Pacific and Sportsnet ONE and streaming online at Sportsnet+ (Canada) and Yare (international).


The HearingLife Tour Challenge is the first Grand Slam of Curling event of the season with 32 men’s teams and 32 women’s teams in two tiers of action. Tier 1 features the top teams from around the world. Tier 2 features the next group of teams in the rankings with the winners earning promotions into the Co-op Canadian Open later this season. … Round-robin play wraps up Friday evening with the top eight teams in each division qualifying for the playoffs. … The quarterfinals and semifinals are scheduled for Saturday with the finals set for Sunday.