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Bottcher beats Koe to capture Players’ Championship

TORONTO — All Brendan Bottcher has done in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling this season is reach the final and for the second consecutive event he’s landed in the winner’s circle.

Bottcher’s Edmonton-based team claimed the prestigious Players’ Championship men’s trophy following a 6-1 victory over Kevin Koe’s Calgary club in Sunday’s final at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre, formerly known as Maple Leaf Gardens.

It was only the third Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event this season for the team of Bottcher, third Darren Moulding, second Bradley Thiessen and lead Karrick Martin. They finished runner-up at the Tour Challenge Tier 1 in November and earned their first GSOC title at the Meridian Canadian Open in January.

“It’s amazing,” Bottcher said. “This really caps off the Grand Slam event series every year and it’s such a good event here at Maple Leaf Gardens. We’re fortunate to come back here a few times in a row.

“I’m just really proud of the boys, we’ve had such a good year and to cap it off like this is just phenomenal.”

Team Bottcher earned $30,000 of the $150,000 men’s purse for the victory plus $40,000 for finishing second in the Pinty’s Cup standings. Koe, who clinched the overall points title Saturday, cashed in $75,000 with the Pinty’s Cup win plus $24,000 for finishing runner-up in the Players’ Championship, just shy of cracking six digits.

“I think these last couple of years we’ve started performing at the big events,” Bottcher said. “We’ve brought our A-game in these finals and that’s just the experience factor, I think, a little bit. It’s awesome that we’ve been this consistent throughout this year. I think that’s what all the top teams are after.”

Bottcher himself saved his best for the championship game shooting 100 percent and needed to be perfect to edge out the Brier champions and world silver medallists.

“You’ve got to play your best in the biggest games and I felt like we did that today,” Bottcher said. “If we can keep doing that, we should be able to win a few more of these.”

Koe covered the button during the pre-game shootout to start with the hammer, but it was Bottcher who got on the board in the first frame thanks to a beauty in-off from the side to land shot rock buried. That forced Koe to attempt to mirror from the other side of the sheet, however, his shooter rolled under to concede a point.

“It was huge. It just sets the momentum a little bit,” Bottcher said. “You never want to go down a couple early to Koe, so it was good whether we held him to one whether we got the steal, that the scoreboard started pretty neutral and then we dragged out the game all the way to the end.”

The tight, low-scoring affair only saw the teams trade singles in three and five with four blanked ends and Bottcher holding a slim 2-1 lead entering the final stanza.

Koe, who held the hammer coming home, appeared to have picked on his first skip stone as it hooked in and landed into the stone wall of guards up top. Bottcher made a double tap on his last to really pour on the pressure with a mess of granite in play. Koe’s Hail Mary final throw crashed out as four more points went on the board for Bottcher.

The 2018-19 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season wraps up with the Humpty’s Champions Cup, April 23-28, in Saskatoon.

“We’re now the two-time defending Slam champs, so there’s going to be some expectations on us,” Bottcher said. “I’m looking forward to coming out to Saskatoon in a few weeks and may as well play good in your last event before summer break.”