REGINA — It’ll be a fitting finale to the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season as Kerri Einarson and Rachel Homan face off in an all-Canadian clash for the KIOTI Tractor Champions Cup women’s title.
The defending champ Einarson earned her spot with a 12-0 rout over Japan’s Satsuki Fujisawa while Homan defeated Tabitha Peterson of the United States 9-2 during Saturday night’s semifinals.
It’s an incredible fifth Grand Slam final for Einarson’s Gimli, Man., team this season — out of six tournaments total — and seventh out of the past eight when stretching back to last year.
“We’re really excited to be back in the final, especially here in Regina,” said Team Einarson third Val Sweeting, who grew up in Maryfield, Sask. “It’s not too far from my hometown. We have family and friends here and the girls have a lot of people from Winnipeg that made the trek out. It’s been a lot of fun playing in this arena.”
“It can definitely help keep the energy up out there and we feed off of it,” she added. “Even just going out for lunch, we run into people and everyone’s been supportive.”
Fun was also the word Homan used as it’s her third championship game this season in the series with all three coming against Einarson. Homan won her record-extending 12th Grand Slam women’s title at the HearingLife Tour Challenge in October while Einarson took the rematch during the WFG Masters in December.
Now they’ll face off in a finals rubber match to finish the 2022-23 campaign.
“It’s amazing to close out a season getting to a final,” Homan said. “It’s so hard to get there, so it’s really fun to be in the final of the last one of the year.”
What was also fitting was Einarson’s matchup against Fujisawa, which was their 14th meeting of the season and second straight this week.
“That’s what we thought of when we played them in the playoffs at the Players’ Championship. We actually hadn’t played them yet and we thought that was strange,” Sweeting said with a laugh. “I said, ‘Geez, is it even a bonspiel if we don’t play you guys?’ It’s kind of fitting that we played them here.”
Einarson opened with the hammer and the two-point conversion was good for a deuce in the second. The game got out of hand early as Fujisawa misfired her last rock in the third end to give up a huge steal of four points. Fujisawa continued to struggle and fell short on the draw in the fourth to concede three more points and fall behind 9-0.
It was then early handshakes after Fujisawa rolled deep with her last rock in the fifth and Einarson tacking three more on the scoreboard.
“Obviously, we weren’t expecting that line score,” Sweeting said. “We usually have a really close game against them and they’re a really fun team to play against. We know we’ll play them a lot in the future, too.”
The Ottawa native Homan had to upend Peterson, who was the No. 1 seed after finishing 4-1 in pool play and secured a bye to the semifinals. It was singles to start and trailing 2-1, Homan grabbed the lead for good with a strong fourth end punctuated with a hit to score four. The sheet had been a tricky one all week and Peterson was unable to close the deficit giving up a steal of one in the fifth and three in the sixth.
“That was definitely the most challenging sheet we’ve seen in a long time,” Homan said. “It was just a bit better guesses but it was a really tough sheet for both teams. We just got a few more on the right side of the inch there.”
Both teams also have substitute leads. Dawn McEwen is filling in for Team Einarson’s Briane Harris and Rachelle Brown is sparing for Sarah Wilkes. Both Harris and Wilkes are away on maternity leave.
That’s not the only switch as Homan is back to calling the game with third Tracy Fleury, who normally skips, handling sweeping duties.
“I’m hurting a little bit so I’m in the house and Tracy is doing a great job,” Homan said. “It just shows how awesome the team is to be able to just kind of move around and still be able to perform.
“It’s been really fun to have Rachelle. She’s such an added value and such a great teammate and a great shooter, so it’s been a lot of fun.”
Both teams finished pool play with 3-2 records but Einarson earned a bye to the semifinals based on draw-to-the-button shootout scores.
“It would be good to finish off the season with a win,” Sweeting said. “We’ll definitely be happy to be playing it and we’ll look to bring it home tomorrow.”
Homan eliminated Sweden’s Team Hasselborg, with Agnes Knochenhauer skipping, 7-6 during the quarterfinals earlier Saturday.
The key to victory over Einarson, Homan said, is “just more of the same.”
“We’ve started to get on a roll, are playing better and better every game and learning from each game,” Homan said.
It’ll also be an all-Canadian men’s final between Brad Gushue’s crew from St. John’s, N.L., and Brendan Bottcher’s Calgary club.
The defending champ Gushue grabbed a spot with an 8-3 win over Winnipeg’s Matt Dunstone while Bottcher booked his date for the final following a 7-2 victory over Niklas Edin from Sweden.
Gushue is actually a two-time champion in the event winning both trophies with second Brett Gallant, who is now tossing rocks for Bottcher.
It’ll be the second Grand Slam final this season for both teams. Gushue was victorious at the BOOST National in October for his 14th Grand Slam title while Bottcher took home his fourth career championship in the series at the Co-op Canadian Open in January.
The men’s final kicks off “Championship Sunday” at 11 a.m. local time (1 p.m. ET) with the women’s final at 3 p.m. local time (5 p.m. ET). Watch both finals live on Sportsnet 360, Sportsnet NOW (Canada) or Yare (international).