CHATHAM-KENT, Ont. — Toronto’s John Epping hammered his way into the Princess Auto Elite 10 men’s semifinals.
Epping dumped Glenn Howard of Penetanguishene with a commanding 4-and-3 victory (four points to none in five ends) in an all-Ontario quarterfinal battle at the soldout Thames Campus Arena.
Epping will take on undefeated Winnipeg’s Reid Carruthers in the evening semifinals. Carruthers and Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., finished as the top two seeds to earn byes.
Howard, who has won 14 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling titles as a skip, started with the hammer but struggled out of the gate jamming on a double attempt with his last in the first to give up a steal.
Epping robbed another point in the second end to go 2 UP. Howard looked to be in a good position to score after doubling out Epping’s stones with his first skip stone to sit a triangle stretched around the 12-foot circle. However, Epping drew for shot rock covered behind his guard and Howard failed on another double, removing the guard but missing the counter.
After a push in three, Epping drew to count two in the fourth and took another end to go 3 UP. Another steal in five eliminated Howard from contention.
It’ll be the Battle of the Brads in the other semifinal matchup after Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., bounced Calgary’s Kevin Koe 3-and-2 (four points to one in six ends) from the quarterfinals to take on Gushue.
Match play rules are in effect at the season-opening Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event where teams compete to win the most ends per game similar to a skins game only without carryovers. Points are scored by either counting two or more rocks (with the hammer) or stealing at least one rock (without the hammer). If the game is tied after eight ends, a draw-to-the-button shootout will determine the winner.
The Princess Auto Elite 10 features three additional unique rules: Stopwatches are banned, tick shots cannot be performed on guards sitting on the centre line until the sixth rock of play, and teams have four minutes of thinking time per end.
Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones plays Silvana Tirinzoni of Switzerland and Ottawa’s Rachel Homan faces Anna Hasselborg of Sweden in the women’s semifinals.
Previously a men’s invitational, this is the first year a women’s division has been included at the Princess Auto Elite 10 bringing parity across the seven-event series.
Both finals are set for Sunday.
NOTES: Winners of the Princess Auto Elite 10 earn $24,000 of the $200,000 prize purse plus berths to the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup taking place April 23-28 in Saskatoon. … Points are also on the line for the Pinty’s Cup, which is awarded to the season champions in the series with a $75,000 bonus for the winners.