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Bottcher, Jacobs qualify for quarterfinals at Masters

NORTH BAY, Ont. — Team Brendan Bottcher continue their quest for a fourth consecutive Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title at the Masters.

The Edmonton-based club secured a playoff spot in the quarterfinals with a 5-3 victory over Team Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., during the final men’s round-robin draw Friday.

Team Bottcher, who finished pool play with a 3-1 record, won the final three Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling titles last season at the Meridian Canadian Open, Players’ Championship and Humpty’s Champions Cup.

Bottcher said it felt great, especially since they’ve really only played one other event this season over a month ago.

“We needed a bit of success this week based on how the start of our season went,” Bottcher said. “I’m definitely happy that we’ve done good so far but we’re a few games away from where we really want to be.

“Playing well the last couple, we played really well against (Niklas) Edin yesterday and had a good game against Brad today. If we keep doing that I feel like we’re shaping up tomorrow.”

Bottcher made the perfect freeze into the eight-foot circle with his last and the 11-time Grand Slam winner Gushue would have had to make an improbable triple takeout just to tie it but opted to concede instead.

“Sometimes that’s just the way it goes,” Bottcher said. “You can’t make angles where they don’t exist.

“I was tempted to throw a guard there and leave Brad a very tough shot, that probably would have been the easiest last shot for me, but you don’t want to leave Brad many of those shots. I had a chance to draw to the eight-foot to put the game away and that’s what we did.”

Gushue (2-2) avoided the tiebreaker scenario thanks to a great draw-to-the-button shootout total to qualify and face … Bottcher again in the quarterfinals.

Northern Ontario’s own Team Brad Jacobs also advanced to the quarterfinals at 3-1. Jacobs, from Sault Ste. Marie, scored four in the sixth to finish off Team Peter de Cruz 7-3.

The four-time Grand Slam champion Jacobs will play Regina’s Team Matt Dunstone (3-1) in the quarterfinals.

“It feels really nice to be able to know that we’re going to be playing on the weekend,” Team Jacobs second E.J. Harnden said. “Again, kind of excited to hopefully play in front of what we know is going to be a large crowd and feed off of that energy and excitement. Looking forward to tomorrow.”

New third Marc Kennedy said the fan support has been great as the 12-time Grand Slam champion from St. Albert, Alta., has been accepted as one of their own.

“I think they’re pretty knowledgeable curling fans, so they wait for the right moment to cheer,” Kennedy said. “It’s just great seeing this many fans at a Slam supporting this event. I think a few of them were in our corner, which is nice and it’s been amazing.”

Kennedy is also embracing the moose calls distinctly tied to Northern Ontario fans.

“We’ve competed against it for so long, you kind of develop a dislike for them but since this team was announced, I’ve been welcomed with open arms in Northern Ontario,” Kennedy said. “I spent some time out here in the summer and got to know the families. It feels like a second home already so I think I’ll adjust to those moose calls pretty quick.”

The 2018 Olympic bronze medallist De Cruz (2-2) won his first couple games in the tournament but has lost some of his “Slamina” dropping two straight to level his record.

Calgary’s Team Kevin Koe stayed alive with a 7-5 victory over Team Scott McDonald although the reigning Brier champions will have to take a detour through Saturday morning’s tiebreakers. McDonald, from Kingston, Ont., is heading home at 0-4.

Scotland’s Team Bruce Mouat finished at the top of the table at 4-0. Team Mouat, the only undefeated club on the men’s side, earned the No. 1 seed for the playoffs with a 7-2 win over Toronto’s Team John Epping (2-2).

Switzerland’s Team Yannick Schwaller spoiled America’s Team John Shuster 5-4. Both teams were eliminated with 1-3 records.

Koe clashes with Scotland’s Team Ross Paterson and Epping meets De Cruz in the morning tiebreakers.

Mouat and Team Glenn Howard (No. 2 seed at 3-1) await the tiebreaker winners. Third Scott Howard is skipping the Penetanguishene, Ont., team this week with Glenn away on a trip to Scotland.

The Masters features 15 of the top men’s teams and 15 of the top women’s teams from around the world. Both divisions are split into three pools of five for round-robin play with the top eight overall qualifying for the weekend playoffs. The quarterfinals and semifinals are scheduled for Saturday with the finals set for Sunday.

The action continues at 7:30 p.m. ET with broadcast coverage airing exclusively online at Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and Yare (international).

NOTES: The Masters is the first of six Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling events on the season and one of four majors in the series. … The total prize purse is $300,000 and is split evenly between the men’s and women’s divisions. Winners receive $35,000 plus berths towards the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup taking place April 29 to May 3, 2020, in Olds, Alta. … Also up for grabs at the Masters are Pinty’s Cup bonus points. The leaders following the conclusion of the Players’ Championship in April will capture the Pinty’s Cup with additional prize money awarded.