OAKVILLE, Ont. — It was tricky but no trouble for Team Tracy Fleury as the defending champions qualified for the Masters playoffs Friday.
Team Fleury, from East St. Paul, scored four points in the eighth end to top Team Kerri Einarson of Gimli 8-5 in an all-Manitoba matchup during Draw 15 of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season opener at Sixteen Mile Sports Complex.
Team Fleury finished the triple knockout stage through the B brackets with a 3-1 record to reach the quarterfinals.
Fleury captured her first career Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling women’s title at the 2019 Masters in North Bay, Ont., near her hometown of Sudbury. The Masters was not held last season and this year’s edition is the first GSOC event to have fans back in the stands since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although Fleury was sharp on the draw-to-the-button shootout covering the pinhole to win hammer to start, she gave up a single steal in the first as her last rock hung out in the path and drove right by the pile.
Fleury tapped for two points in the third to take the lead, but Einarson responded with a draw for a deuce in the fourth end to pull back ahead 3-2.
The close contest continued through the fifth and sixth ends. Fleury took the risk for a reward of two points in the fifth running back Einarson’s rock and avoided the jam to take out another. The lead flip-flopped again though as Einarson matched right back drawing for a deuce in the sixth to go up 5-4.
Fleury blanked the seventh end to retain the hammer for the final frame looking to score the winning deuce and just needed an open hit to add four on the board.
Team Tabitha Peterson of the United States and Team Eun-Jung Kim of South Korea also advanced through the B qualifiers with 3-1 records.
Peterson defeated Sweden’s Team Isabella Wranå 8-6 and Kim scored a single in the eighth end to edge Sweden’s Team Anna Hasselborg 5-4.
Meanwhile, Edmonton’s Team Kelsey Rocque avoided elimination with a 5-3 win over Team Min-Ji Kim of South Korea in the C side. Min-Ji Kim was not at the event this week and second Hye-Rin Kim moved up to skip.
Rocque will play Einarson, Wranå faces Winnipeg’s Team Jennifer Jones and Hasselborg meets Team Alina Kovaleva from Russia in Saturday morning’s last-chance C qualifiers.
Earlier Friday, Jones bounced Japan’s Team Tori Koana 8-3 and Kovaleva ousted Japan’s Team Satsuki Fujisawa 7-4 to hang tough in the C brackets.
TRIPLE KNOCKOUT EXPLAINED
The triple knockout consists of three brackets: A, B and C. Teams must win three games in order to qualify for the playoffs. Each loss drops a team to a lower bracket until they lose three games and are out of the tournament. Two A teams (3-0 records), three B teams (3-1 records) and three C teams (3-2 records) advance to the quarterfinals.
NO TICK ZONE
Teams cannot tick guards off of the centre line while the five-rock, free guard zone is in effect during the eighth and extra ends only.
The Masters is the first of five events on the 2021-22 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling schedule and features 16 of the top men’s teams and 16 of the top women’s teams from around the world. … A combined $300,000 prize purse is up for grabs with the winning teams earning $33,000 plus berths into the season-ending KIOTI Tractor Champions Cup. … Triple knockout play runs through to Saturday morning. The quarterfinals and semifinals are also Saturday with both finals set for Sunday. … Tickets are available at masters.goigniter.com.