CAMROSE, Alta. — Brendan Bottcher’s Calgary-based club had collectively captured 42 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling titles before coming together this season.
Bottcher, third Marc Kennedy, second Brett Gallant and lead Ben Hebert have now won their first as a powerhouse unit.
Team Bottcher defeated Niklas Edin’s Swedish squad 5-3 to claim the Co-op Canadian Open men’s championship Sunday at Encana Arena.
“We’ve worked hard this year, we really have, and I’m just so proud of the guys for sticking with it,” Bottcher said. “I really feel like the last couple of events we’ve been playing great. We had a really good event (at the Masters) in Oakville, came up just short and played even a little bit better here this week. That’s really all you can ask for.”
There was a free-agent frenzy following the conclusion of the Olympic cycle last year with team breakups and shakeups from coast to coast and even around the globe. Bottcher was no exception disbanding his crew and starting over by reuniting Kennedy and Hebert, who previously played together for skips Kevin Martin and Kevin Koe, plus adding Gallant, who moved west after spending the past decade in St. John’s, N.L., with skip Brad Gushue.
Gallant, who won 12 Grand Slams with Gushue, said this win felt different but great.
“We came together from four separate teams, we went through a little bit of a learning curve at the start of the season but we’ve put in a ton of hard work in the meantime,” he said. “We had a great Masters and now we’ve had a great Canadian Open. To cap it off winning here today is amazing.”
Both teams entered the final with unblemished records and Bottcher pinned the draw-to-the-button shootout to secure hammer to start.
“There’s so little that separates the top teams now that hammer is a big advantage,” Bottcher said. “Even just kind of getting off a bit of momentum out of the gate. We had a good practice, put it on the pin, got hammer and it kind of dictated the play from there.”
The opening end didn’t go exactly as planned for Bottcher, who missed a double takeout with his first skip stone and was forced to draw to the button with his last to settle for a single point.
Things didn’t improve in the second either as Bottcher pulled off a double to limit the damage and Edin drew for a deuce and a 2-1 lead.
Bottcher rebounded in the third with an open hit for two points and a 3-2 advantage.
Edin struggled in the middle stanzas with a slash attempt that missed and gave up a stolen point in the fourth. The reigning Olympic and world champion Edin conceded another point in the fifth to fall behind 5-2 when his shooter clipped another rock in the house.
Bottcher, who shot 90 per cent in the match, sat three counters in the seventh to force Edin to a single. That also handed the hammer over to Bottcher for the final frame, and he doubled out Edin on his first skip stone to secure the title victory in front of their home province fans.
“It’s great and this is probably the most attendance I’ve seen since before the pandemic,” Bottcher said. “Just being able to pack a building like this is outstanding and doing it in your home province is obviously pretty special.”
The championship victory bodes well for Team Bottcher heading into a busy stretch of the season with provincial playdowns approaching.
“We’re working hard, we’re doing the right things and that comes from experience,” Gallant said. “We’re taking bits and pieces from each of our former teams, trying to put that into practice with this new one.
“I’m really happy with how all the guys are playing and we’re getting along really well on and off the ice. It’s been a blast and coach (Paul) Webster, he’s been helping us keep focused and keep us in line. It’s been great so far.”