TORONTO — Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., moved up to a 2-0 record in the Princess Auto Players’ Championship with a strong 7-3 victory over Calgary’s Kevin Koe on Wednesday at Mattamy Athletic Centre.
The 14-time Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling champion Gushue, who opened with an 8-3 win Tuesday over Norway’s Magnus Ramsfjell, is getting back into his familiar rhythm in the series at the historic venue formerly known as Maple Leafs Gardens.
Gushue is coming off of a physically and emotionally draining week at the world men’s championship in Ottawa having played 15 games in eight days and earning a silver medal after falling to Scotland’s Bruce Mouat in Sunday’s final.
“I think we’re just trying to remind ourselves that this is a big event,” Gushue said. “It’s our favourite event of the year but it is a challenge after the worlds to find that energy. We’re all fatigued, every team that’s coming off of the worlds is experiencing the same thing. Then you have the emotional fatigue: Bruce winning, us losing, Yannick (Schwaller) losing.
“It’s tough but it’s a big event and it’s just a matter of finding some energy, getting a read on the ice and once you get into the flow of it. Like today felt a whole lot better than last night. I think each game that we play, you kind of put the worlds in the past and you focus on this event.”
Gushue got out to a textbook start against Koe by converting for deuces in the first and third ends with the hammer while holding his opponent to singles in the second and fourth.
After trading singles back and forth, Gushue capped the game with another two-pointer in the seventh.
Team Gushue fired 89 per cent as a unit with the skip leading the way at a perfect 100 per cent.
“I felt like we called a good game, we executed,” Gushue said. “We had some misses out there but they had a few more, which was the big difference. Their misses were a little bit bigger than ours, to be honest. But it was comfortable. I felt like we were in control of the game even though we had a couple of misses in the middle there.
“Getting off to a 2-0 start beating some quality teams, we’ve still got some quality teams to play. There’s no free spot on this bingo card, it’s all tough games. We’ve got to battle tonight, tomorrow and Friday. It’s going to be a tough one.”
There’s no rest for the world’s best teams with Gushue set to meet Sweden’s Niklas Edin in the evening draw at 7 p.m. ET.
In women’s play, Clancy Grandy’s Vancouver-based team also improved to 2-0 after downing Kerri Einarson of Gimli, Man., in a 13-0 rout.
After scoring a deuce in the first, Grandy rode away on the steal train swiping four points in the second, back-to-back singles in the third and fourth and then a count of five in the fifth to bring out early handshakes.
The two-time Players’ Championship winner Einarson is at the opposite end at 0-2.
“It’s really important to get out to a good start here,” said Grandy, who kicked off the event with a 6-5 win over Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg. “We knew our first two games of course were going to be extremely tough but we also said, ‘This is the Players’, it’s the top 12 teams in the world,’ so every single game is against a top team in the world and we know that’s going to be tough the whole way.
“We tried to really focus on what we’re doing in the games and feel comfortable, start learning the ice, just throw and execute well, so it feels good to be doing that.”
It’s also a homecoming for Grandy, who grew up in nearby Burlington.
“I love it. I remember as a kid coming here and I saw a couple of Leafs games in this building,” she said. “I think it feels extra special to get to play in it. There’s so much history here. Getting to be back in Ontario and see some friends and family I haven’t seen in a long time now is really special.”
Edin is handling double duty this week skipping his own squad on the men’s side as well as coaching Team Grandy.
“He’s been a really good addition to our team,” Grandy said. “When we were looking for someone, we had a list of what we wanted help with and thought to ourselves who could we get if we could get anyone and of course, he’s the best. He’s the best in the world and we’re super happy to be able to have his help and it’s been working really well so far.”
Elsewhere, Switzerland’s Yannick Schwaller beat Italy’s Joël Retornaz 6-4 in a repeat of the bronze medal game from the world men’s curling championship. Both teams are now at 1-1.
Sweden’s Isabella Wranå climbed to a 2-0 record by scoring a single in the eighth end to win 5-4 over Japan’s Satsuki Fujisawa (1-1).
Two more draws are on tap Wednesday with round-robin play continuing at 3:30 p.m. local time. Tickets are available at the box office and online at Ticketmaster.ca.
NOTES: The Princess Auto Players’ Championship features 12 of the top men’s teams and 12 of the top women’s teams from around the world based on the World Curling Federation’s year-to-date world team rankings. … Round-robin play runs through to Friday. The best six teams overall qualify for Saturday’s playoffs with the top two receiving byes to the semifinals. Both finals are scheduled for Sunday. … The Pinty’s Cup will also be awarded to the season champions in the series during the event.