News Champions Cup

Fleury fends off Hasselborg to clinch Champions Cup playoff spot

Team Tracy Fleury of East St. Paul, Man., have secured their spot in the Humpty’s Champions Cup women’s playoffs after edging Sweden’s Team Anna Hasselborg 10-7 in an extra end Friday night.

Fleury climbed to a 3-0 record with one round-robin game remaining Saturday in the first of back-to-back Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling events in the bubble at Calgary’s WinSport Arena.

It’s the first event of the season for Fleury as she missed the Scotties Tournament of Hearts to take care of her young daughter Nina, who was diagnosed with infantile spasms in November. Chelsea Carey skipped the squad at the Canadian women’s curling championship in February and will fill in again for next week’s Princess Auto Players’ Championship while Fleury returns home.

Team Hasselborg’s bid for a fourth consecutive Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling women’s title came to an end early as they dropped to 0-3 and were eliminated from playoff contention. The reigning Olympic gold medallists captured their third straight at the 2020 Meridian Canadian Open before the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the remainder of last season and delayed the start of this year.

It was a back-and-forth affair with Hasselborg opening with the hammer and converting for a deuce in the first. Fleury scored three in the second and stole one in the third to double her lead 4-2.

The teams traded singles in four and five followed by deuces in six and seven as Fleury led by two coming home but without the hammer. Hasselborg connected with her last in the eighth end but needed a measure and it was off to the extra as the stick said she got the equalizing two points.

Fleury didn’t need to throw her last in overtime, however, as she was already sitting three and Hasselborg’s final rock rolled heavy.

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Winnipeg’s Team Jennifer Jones picked up a crucial first win defeating Scotland’s Team Eve Muirhead 7-5. Jones, who has won nine Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling women’s titles, now holds a 1-2 record to remain in the mix.

Tied 2-2 after three, Jones stole two in the fourth end and swiped another point in the fifth for a three-point advantage. Muirhead, who has claimed four women’s titles in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling, erased the deficit with a three-ender in the sixth. Jones settled for a single in seven to pull ahead again and held on adding a single steal in eight. Muirhead (2-1) was running low on time and grazed a guarding rock with her last.

Defending champion Team Silvana Tirinzoni regrouped from a tough 9-3 lost to Muirhead in the morning with a 7-6 decision over South Korea’s Team Min-Ji Kim. Tirinzoni, who won the last Humpty’s Champions Cup in 2019, moved up to a 2-1 record while Kim slipped to 1-2.

World champions Team Niklas Edin of Sweden improved to a 2-1 record with a 6-2 victory over Toronto’s Team John Epping. Edin, who captured his record fifth world title and third in a row Sunday, dropped his opener Thursday morning to Calgary’s Team Kevin Koe 6-2 in only five ends and got back on track in the evening by downing Team Jason Gunnlaugson of Morris, Man., 7-1.

The Humpty’s Champions Cup features 12 of the top men’s teams and 12 of the top women’s teams from around the world. Six teams in both divisions qualify for the playoffs with the top two receiving byes to the semifinals.

Pool play runs through to Saturday with quarterfinals and semifinals on Sunday and both finals set for Monday. The Princess Auto Players’ Championship begins Tuesday.

The series is testing a new rule at the Humpty’s Champions Cup called the no tick zone. A rock touching the centre line, in the free guard zone, may not be moved off the centre line by the opposing team until the sixth rock of the end.

Both events are closed to the general public. Round-robin play continues Saturday at 10 a.m. ET / 8 a.m. local time. Broadcast coverage resumes at 2 p.m. ET / Noon local time on Sportsnet ONE with online streaming at Sportsnet Now (Canada) and Yare (international).