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Bottcher edges Gushue in sharp win at Princess Auto Players’ Championship

TORONTO — Curling is a “game of inches” but sometimes it’s even a game of millimetres.

Such was the case Thursday evening at the Princess Auto Players’ Championship in the matchup between Brendan Bottcher’s Calgary-based club and Brad Gushue’s crew from St. John’s, N.L.

Gushue’s lead Geoff Walker threw his team’s pre-game draw-to-the-button shot and landed just five millimetres off of the pin. That would be enough the secure the hammer most of the time but not this night. Team Bottcher third Marc Kennedy made one even better and covered the hole to give his side last rock advantage to start.

That proved to be critical as Bottcher was able to stay one step ahead of Gushue and never trailed en route to a 5-4 victory.

“I think that just speaks to the intensity and the skill of both teams out there,” Bottcher said. “Hammer means a lot in those games, so it is a big advantage when you can win it. Thankfully, Marc came up with a really good one there.”

Bottcher, who lost to Sweden’s Niklas Edin earlier in the day, evened his record to 2-2 while handing Gushue (3-1) his first defeat of the week.

“It feels great. The top 12 teams in the world are here, so there are no easy games,” said Bottcher, who has one round-robin game remaining Friday against Norway’s Magnus Ramsfjell. “Really, every game you’ve got to come out and play your best.

“I thought we were trending in the right direction today, played two of the best teams in the world and came away 1-1. Hopefully, we have some momentum and can finish off our last round-robin game tomorrow.”

The squads were evenly matched on the ice with Team Bottcher barely outshooting Team Gushue 89-88 in the percentages.

After singles back and forth opened the scoring, Gushue just missed a double takeout attempt in the fourth end allowing Bottcher to draw for a deuce and take a 3-1 lead.

“We started with hammer, then we got a deuce and had them chasing a little bit and that’s a good formula for us,” Bottcher explained. “I think we’re a great hitting team and we hit out the second half of that game really good.”

Bottcher made a great cross-house double takeout in the fifth end that forced Gushue to a single and then was able to draw for his second pair in the sixth to build a 5-2 advantage.

The 14-time Grand Slam champion Gushue opted to take another lonely point in the seventh and hope to steal the equalizer or more coming home. Bottcher wasn’t having it, conceding just one, and finishing with a game high 97 per cent shooting.

“It’s a long week but I feel like we’re playing well and hope we can get on a roll,” Bottcher said.

Elsewhere, Switzerland’s Yannick Schwaller (3-1) took two in the eighth end to win 7-5 over Scotland’s Bruce Mouat (0-4) and eliminate the double-defending champ from contention. Mouat, who just won gold at the world championship on Sunday, was looking to become the first ever to three-peat in the event.

In women’s play, Canada’s Kerri Einarson (2-2) earned her second straight victory by stealing two in the eighth end to edge Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg 6-5.

The teams have split the past two Princess Auto Players’ Championship women’s finals held at Mattamy Athletic Centre. Einarson beat Hasselborg for the title in 2019 while the tables were turned in last year’s championship game.

Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni (2-2) picked up a 6-5 win over Casey Scheidegger’s Canadian club (0-3). Scheidegger and second Jessie Haughian are both away on maternity leave with Chelsea Carey and Jamie Sinclair subbing this week.


Round-robin play continues Friday at 8 a.m. local time. Tickets are available at the box office and online at

Broadcast coverage resumes at 11:30 a.m. ET / 8:30 a.m. PT on Sportsnet, Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and Yare (international).

NOTES: The Princess Auto Players’ Championship features 12 of the top men’s teams and 12 of the top women’s teams from around the world based on the World Curling Federation’s year-to-date world team rankings. … Round-robin play runs through to Friday. The best six teams overall qualify for Saturday’s playoffs with the top two receiving byes to the semifinals. Both finals are scheduled for Sunday. … The Pinty’s Cup will also be awarded to the season champions in the series during the event.