CHATHAM-KENT, Ont. — A sharp start got Brad Gushue back on track at the Princess Auto Elite 10.
The double defending Brier champion and his crew from St. John’s, N.L., jumped out of the gate for their match against Toronto’s John Epping during the seventh round-robin draw Friday and never looked back picking up a commanding 4-and-2 victory (4-0 in six ends) in the match play event.
Team Gushue improved to a 2-0-0-1 record (six points) defeating Jason Gunnlaugson during the opening draw Wednesday and losing to Glenn Howard on Thursday. Teams earn three points for a regulation win, two points for a shootout win, one point for a shootout loss and zero points for a regulation loss, which has cluttered up the standings.
The 10-time Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title winners Team Gushue are looking to grab as many points as they can to avoid a tiebreaker scenario when they conclude round-robin play in the evening against Scotland’s Team Mouat.
“We’ve got to try to get at least a couple more,” Team Gushue third Mark Nichols said. “Get a win somewhere there tonight against the Scottish boys but if we can go out and play like we did in the first two ends, I like our chances.”
A pair of beauties from Nichols set the table for Team Gushue to take the first end. Gushue already sat three under cover in the four-foot circle and didn’t need to throw his last as John Epping hit and rolled too far.
Gushue picked up a fortunate point in the second to go 2 UP as Epping’s last caught something on the ice and veered off the line.
“The first two ends we played really well,” Nichols said. “We kind of slipped a little halfway through. Brad played extremely well like he usually does, held us in and made some timely shots at the end there.”
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. Points are scored by either counting two or more rocks (with the hammer) or stealing at least one rock (without the hammer).
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.
The latter caused some headaches for both teams in the fourth with time running low and Epping needing to use two of his three timeouts in the end. Gushue sat shot rock but didn’t want to risk disrupting the crowded house and opted to throw his last away.
“You’ve got to think quick here,” Nichols said. “There’s not a lot of time per end, you get a few rocks in play and you’ve got to talk about it but you can get tight on time. That’s the interesting part about this event.”
Gushue left an opening for Epping in the fifth to attempt a long raise double takeout to possibly score. The reigning Ontario champion Epping was unable to get the right angle and Gushue poached another point.
“That was a tough shot but to leave him a 15-foot runback is never easy,” Nichols said. “You’re going to see a lot of those shots made and missed in this event just because of the nature of the event. You try to take it away but cross your fingers when they’re throwing them that they don’t always make them.”
Epping (2-0-0-1, six points) conceded another in the sixth end that brought out the handshakes.
Elsewhere, Calgary’s Kevin Koe has qualified for the playoffs with a 3-and-1 win over Scotland’s Ross Paterson. Koe is off to a solid run with a 3-0-0-0 record (nine points) and is tied at the top of the leaderboard with Howard. Paterson (1-0-0-3) has finished round-robin play with three points.
Winnipeg’s Reid Carruthers slipped past Sweden’s Niklas Edin in a draw-to-the-button shootout. With the game all-square after eight ends, Team Carruthers fourth Mike McEwen grabbed a piece of the button with his shot and Team Edin second Rasmus Wrana was unable to outcount it with his rock rolling deep.
Team Carruthers climbed to a 2-1-0-0 record (eight points) and meets Koe in the evening draw. The reigning world champions It was the first point of the event for Team Edin (0-0-1-2) and they finish round-robin play against Brad Jacobs’s team.
In women’s play, Ottawa’s Rachel Homan also edged out Casey Scheidegger of Lethbridge, Alta., in a shootout. Both teams have binary records with Homan sitting at 1-1-0-1 (five points) and Scheidegger dropping to 1-0-1-1 (four points).
Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg qualified for the playoffs with a 2 UP victory over American Nina Roth. The 2018 Olympic gold medallists Team Hasselborg are undefeated at 3-0-0-0 (nine points) and tied for first place in the women’s division with Jennifer Jones’s club. Roth finished round-robin play at 1-0-0-3 (three points).
The top six teams overall, regardless of pools, qualify for the weekend playoffs with the top two seeds receiving byes directly to the semifinals.
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.