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Gushue wins Boost National to earn 14th GSOC men’s title

NORTH BAY, Ont. — New season, same result for Canada’s Team Gushue.

After finishing last season with a title win at the Kioti Tractor Champions Cup, skip Brad Gushue and his St. John’s, N.L., crew picked up where they left off in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling by capturing the Boost National men’s championship Sunday at Memorial Gardens.

Gushue executed an open hit to score the winning single point in an extra end to edge Niklas Edin’s squad from Sweden 5-4.

It’s the 14th Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling men’s title and 11th major for Gushue, who collected $35,000 from the $300,000 prize purse plus 12 Pinty’s Cup points.

Not everything is the same this year for Gushue, third Mark Nichols and lead Geoff Walker as they welcomed second E.J. Harnden to the lineup with Brett Gallant moving onto Calgary’s Team Bottcher. Although it’s still the honeymoon phase for Team Gushue’s retooled roster, they were sharp enough to go 7-0 through the first leg of the Grand Slam circuit.

“It feels really good, to be honest, starting out the season this way and starting out with this team, too,” Gushue said. “It’s nice to get a win with E.J. It was a battle all week. I don’t think we had our best. We got a little bit lucky as you could see there in the eighth end with Niklas missing a shot that he probably makes 80 per cent of the time, but we’ll take it. We missed some shots that we make 80 per cent of the time too, so it all evens out over the long haul. We’re pretty happy.”

The Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., native Harnden, who played with his cousin Brad Jacobs and brother Ryan Harnden during the previous 14 seasons, said he’s been gelling extremely well and it’s been really easy on and off of the ice.

“I think the one for me and the guys that’s been great is I’ve had to adjust my delivery and some technical things to try to get on the same paths and throw it in a similar way to the rest of the guys,” Harnden said. “That’s been hard this week. I was nowhere near what my expectations are from a playing perspective, but I’m trying to be patient. The guys have been extremely patient with me, and I know it’s going to pay off in the end. I’ll get there, but … I did a lot of sweeping and I said as long as I’m contributing right now in a positive way that’s all I can ask for.

“All kidding aside, it’s been extremely easy. I’ll get the mechanic stuff down and then I’ll feel really comfortable and hopefully, there will be a lot of success to follow.”

Gushue also acknowledged there will still be some growing pains as they’ve been working at tightening up their shots together over the last few weeks.

“To be honest, that’s going to be like a six-month process,” Gushue said. “We’re not going to have weeks like this every week. We’re going to have some down weeks as we make some adjustments. It’s just that this week I thought personally we played pretty well and we got a few breaks that allowed us to come out on top. We were fortunate.”

Team Edin, who had also entered the final undefeated, won the draw-to-the-button shootout by the shortest of margins, however, the reigning Olympic and world champions were unable to open the scoring. Edin’s runback attempt in the first missed the target, and Gushue grabbed a single steal.

Another uncharacteristic miss from Edin on his first skip stone in the third end forced him to draw for a single on his last and tie it up.

After limiting Gushue to one point in the fourth, Edin scored the game’s first (and only) deuce in the fifth. Already sitting shot rock on the button, Edin drew around for another bite of the lid to grab a 3-2 lead.

Gushue knotted it up again in the sixth end with a hit and stick for a single then stole a one-point lead in the seventh when Edin looked to make a tricky triple takeout and jammed it.

Edin went big again in the eighth end firing a double for the potential winning deuce, but his shooter couldn’t nudge Gushue’s rock far enough and only counted the tying single that forced the electric extra end.

“It feels amazing,” Harnden said. “I thought we played quite well actually in Fredericton [at the PointsBet Invitational] and I think we’re trending in the right direction. We had some good games here.

“I think the thing that I was most proud of all week is we just really battled and never gave up. We always gave ourselves an opportunity to win and when the opportunity was there, we made sure to capitalize. I think it was a really good win for this team in order to go through a little bit of adversity and come out and still get the victory. It was a great way to get the first win as a team and a great way for me to experience a win with these guys as well.”

Harnden will also have to get used to winning without his family by his side as Jacobs has taken a hiatus from the men’s circuit and his brother is now playing on Matt Dunstone’s squad. The sibling rivalry is on.

“Usually whenever it’s a milestone reach, it’s Ryan and I doing it together, whether it’s 100 wins at the Brier or number of Brier appearances and Grand Slam titles,” said Harnden, who won seven Grand Slams with Team Jacobs. “Now tomorrow, actually I think we’re having Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe I can make sure to bring that up, that I have one more now. We’ll see.” 

The team of Edin, third Oskar Eriksson, second Rasmus Wranå and lead Christoffer Sundgren earned $20,000 and nine Pinty’s Cup points.

Earlier, Switzerland’s Team Tirinzoni took the women’s championship with a 7-3 victory over Canada’s Team Einarson. It’s the third Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title for skip Silvana Tirinzoni, who is supported by fourth Alina Pätz, second Carole Howald and lead Briar Schwaller-Hürlimann.

NOTES: The Boost National was the opening leg of the 2022-23 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling tour. Next up is the HearingLife Tour Challenge, Oct. 18-23, at the Coca-Cola Centre in Grande Prairie, Alta. … The Pinty’s Cup is awarded to the men’s and women’s season champions in the series with the winners earning $75,000.