NORTH BAY, Ont. — Brad Gushue and Brendan Bottcher entered Thursday’s afternoon Boost National draw with identical 2-0 records, but there could only be one undefeated club remaining between them following their clash at Memorial Gardens.
In the end — the eighth end to be specific — it was Gushue who prevailed as his St. John’s, N.L., team was victorious 5-3 and clinched a playoff spot at 3-0.
Bottcher, now at 2-1, can still guarantee a berth if his Calgary-based team wins their last round-robin game Friday against Team Marco Hösli of Switzerland.
Although Bottcher won the draw-to-the-button shootout for hammer, he couldn’t get much offence going to start and blanked the first end before settling for a single in the second.
The defending Boost National men’s champion Gushue took control with the hammer in the third end, tapping for two points and a 2-1 lead. The teams traded singles in four and five.
Bottcher was held to another single in the sixth and bailed his team out in the seventh with a runback double takeout to sit three. That forced Gushue to draw into the four-foot circle for just one and a 4-3 lead, but gave Bottcher the all-important hammer coming home.
Gushue applied the pressure to sit two counters under the cover of guards, and Bottcher’s come-around draw attempt to force an extra end rolled right past the mark.
It was the first game between their retooled rosters as Brett Gallant moved over from Team Gushue to join the new-look Team Bottcher this season. Gallant won Olympic bronze, a world championship, four Brier titles and 12 Grand Slams during his tenure on the Rock with Gushue. E.J. Harnden, formerly of Team Jacobs, is now playing second for Gushue.
Meanwhile, Mike McEwen hit to score four in the eighth end and lift his Toronto-based club to an 8-5 victory over Team Glenn Howard in another all-Canadian matchup.
McEwen remains in the mix for the playoffs by improving to a 1-2 record while Howard, from Penetanguishene, Ont., has been eliminated at 0-3.
Canada’s Team Kevin Koe cruised past Team Joël Retornaz from Italy 5-2 to move up to a 2-1 record.
Koe scored a deuce in the first and then rolled away with single steals in the third, fourth and sixth ends. Retornaz broke the shutout with a deuce in the seventh before shaking hands. The loss eliminated Retornaz (0-3) from playoff contention.
Team Hösli, with regular third Philipp Hösli moving up to skip this week, topped Canada’s Team Colton Flasch 7-4.
Already up 4-2 with the hammer in the sixth end, Team Hösli counted a critical three points that put the game out of reach. Flasch got two points back in the seventh, but the Saskatoon-based squad conceded the match in the eighth.
Both teams are in it with 2-1 records.
Round-robin play runs through to Friday as teams play four games against teams outside of their pool. The top eight overall, regardless of pools, advance to Saturday afternoon’s quarterfinals. The semifinals are set for Saturday evening and both finals are on tap for Sunday.
The Boost National is the first of six events on the 2022-23 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling calendar 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 purse, split equally between the men’s and women’s divisions, is on the line. The winning teams receive $35,000 and invitations to the season-ending Kioti Tractor Champions Cup. … Points are also up for grabs in the race for the Pinty’s Cup, which is awarded to the 2022-23 season champions with a $75,000 bonus for the winning teams.