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Einarson edges Hasselborg for Players’ Championship in extra end

TORONTO — Team Kerri Einarson completed a comeback week capturing the Players’ Championship women’s title after edging Team Anna Hasselborg 5-4 in an extra end during Sunday’s final at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre.

It’s the second major Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title for Einarson but her first with her new squad featuring third Val Sweeting, second Shannon Birchard and lead Briane Meilleur.

The club from Gimli, Man., banked $30,000 for the win plus $25,000 for finishing third overall in the Pinty’s Cup points race.

“It feels so awesome,” Einarson said. “I’ve always wanted to win the Players’ or any kind of Grand Slam. I’m really so excited.”

Team Einarson fell to a 1-3 win-loss record midway through the tournament and won four consecutive games while on the brink of elimination.

“It’s really phenomenal,” said Birchard, who earned her first career Grand Slam title. “We had kind of a slow start to the week, so I don’t think any of us really expected to be in the position we were today let alone qualify for playoffs. Once we did I think that really lit a fire in us and we were able to use that momentum and carry us through to the final and to winning that game.”

Birchard also said it was pretty amazing they were able to finish third overall in the Pinty’s Cup points standings despite missing the Princess Auto Elite 10 at the start of the season and failing to qualify for the playoffs twice.

“I think it’s pretty huge for a brand-new team,” Birchard said. “I’m amazed with what we’ve been able to do and I can’t wait for the future and how we’re going to grow and build on this. I’m super excited about this team.”

Hasselborg and her Swedish squad entered the final undefeated winning seven straight games and opened with the hammer. After a blank to begin, Hasselborg faced two on her last in the second and hit one on the nose but conceded a steal as Einarson’s other stone held up as shot rock after a measure.

“That was huge because then you’re taking the momentum as well,” Einarson said. “I thought we had control of that pretty much the whole game.”

Feeling comfortable with the ice off the bat was also key according to Birchard.

“We know we’re not going to get a ton of misses out of that team, so to get one early and maybe gain a little bit of momentum on our side was huge,” she said. “Every time you get a little bit of a lead on a team like that is great.”

The reigning Olympic gold medallist Hasselborg took two points back in the third and made the perfect freeze in the fourth to force Einarson to one as she attempted a draw for two that lost the line and hooked into the guards tying it 2-2 at the break.

Luck went the other way in the fifth end as Hasselborg had an open hit and roll to blank but stuffed it to settle for a single and Einarson made the most of the opportunity to get her draw for a deuce in six to pull ahead 4-3.

Hasselborg got the blank in seven setting the stage for a frantic eighth end. A cluster of rocks lined the right side of the house with no one really knowing who was sitting second shot. After Hasselborg hit and rolled away with her last but still counted a single, the measuring stick came out again and determined second shot belonged to Einarson, forcing OT.

“Briane and I weren’t sure who was second shot there in the eighth and Val was pretty sure it was us. Trust her eyes, she’s the third,” Birchard said. “As soon as Briane made that first tick in the last end, I think we all felt really comfortable and just knew we had to keep playing like we had been and we could come out with a win.”

Einarson hit and rolled buried at top of the four-foot circle to secured shot rock with her first skip stone in the extra and didn’t need to throw her last as Hasselborg was off the mark.

“I was thinking in the eighth I just wanted her to throw her last rock so I can have that control in the extra,” Einarson said. “We did and then I didn’t have to throw my last. She was really close but we got our rocks in some good spots.”

Hasselborg, third Sara McManus, second Agnes Knochenhauer and lead Sofia Mabergs earned her first two Grand Slam titles back-to-back to start this season. They took home $24,000 as runners-up and $40,000 for finishing second in the Pinty’s Cup standings.

Ottawa’s Team Rachel Homan clinched the Pinty’s Cup earlier in the week cashing in $75,000.

Earlier, Edmonton’s Brendan Bottcher beat Calgary’s Kevin Koe 6-1 in the men’s final. It was the second career Grand Slam title for Bottcher and second in a row on the season. Koe didn’t leave empty-handed as his crew took home the Pinty’s Cup men’s title.

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

“We’re obviously going to try and build on the momentum that we had here,” Birchard said. “Every event you’ve got to start fresh and learn the ice and play well but I think we have high hopes going into the Champions Cup.”