TORONTO — Brad Gushue and his crew from St. John’s, N.L., are heating up heading into the Princess Auto Players’ Championship playoffs.
Gushue clinched a berth to the men’s quarterfinals with a 7-3 victory over Calgary’s Team Kevin Koe during Draw 15 Friday at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.
Team Gushue lead Geoff Walker said the team is feeling “a lot better” since arriving straight from Las Vegas after earning silver in the world championship.
“Obviously, it’s not too grueling of schedule when you’re here, one game a day,” Walker said. “So having a couple of days here to get some rest was nice.”
Team Gushue lost their first game to Toronto’s own Team John Epping but have now won three straight through the B brackets of the triple knockout preliminary stage.
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.
“It’s nice,” Walker said. “Obviously in this field, whenever you get to the playoffs you’re doing well. For us, it gives us one extra half-day of rest rather than getting up and having to play another game in the morning.”
The 12-time Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling men’s champion Gushue opened with the hammer but was forced to draw for just a single point in the second end. Koe pulled off a wicked double raise in the third and got all of the angles just right to lie two and take a 2-1 lead.
After the teams traded single points in four and five, Gushue pulled back ahead up 4-3 with a deuce in six.
Koe blanked the seventh to retain the hammer coming home, however, he came up light on his last in the eighth and Gushue tacked three stole points to pad the scoreboard.
Team Jason Gunnlaugson and Team Brendan Bottcher also moved on out of the B-qualifiers with 3-1 records.
Gunnlaugson doubled up on Team Mike McEwen 4-2 in an all-Winnipeg matchup while Team Bottcher of Edmonton topped Team Ross Whyte from Scotland 5-3.
Koe, McEwen and Whyte all have one last chance to reach the playoffs via Saturday morning’s C-qualifiers. Koe clashes with Regina’s Team Matt Dunstone, Whyte faces Team Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and McEwen meets Team Glenn Howard of Penetanguishene, Ont.
Team Howard eliminated Italy’s Team Joel Retornaz 6-2 in a C-semifinal contest. With Glenn out due to a knee injury, his son Scott Howard has moved up to skip with Wayne Middaugh subbing at third.
Switzerland’s Team Silvana Tirinzoni and Team Tracy Fleury of East St. Paul, Man., qualified A-side in the women’s division Thursday night while Scotland’s Team Bruce Mouat and Sweden’s Team Niklas Edin went undefeated 3-0 through the men’s division.
Earlier Friday, Team Kerri Einarson of Gimli, Man., Scotland’s Team Eve Muirhead and Japan’s Team Satsuki Fujisawa won the women’s B-qualifiers to advance. Einarson cruised past Germany’s Team Daniela Jentsch 10-2 while Muirhead downed Ottawa’s Team Rachel Homan and Fujisawa beat Team Krista McCarville of Thunder Bay, Ont., by identical 9-2 scores.
Tickets are available at the box office and online at thegrandslamofcurling.com/tickets.
The Princess Auto Players’ Championship is the third event of the 2021-22 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season featuring 16 of the top men’s teams and 16 of the top women’s teams from around the world with a combined $350,000 prize purse. Winning teams earn $35,000. … The Pinty’s Cup will also be awarded to the season champions following the conclusion of the Princess Auto Players’ Championship. Winners of the Pinty’s Cup receive $50,000 bonuses. … The quarterfinals and semifinals are scheduled for Saturday with both finals set for Sunday.