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Homan claims Tour Challenge to win 8th GSOC title

THUNDER BAY, Ont. — Rachel Homan captured her eighth career Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title at the Tour Challenge.

Homan’s Ottawa club doubled up on Team Tracy Fleury of East St. Paul, Man., 8-4 in Sunday’s Tier 1 women’s championship game in front of a capacity crowd at Tournament Centre.

The foursome of Homan, third Emma Miskew, second Joanne Courtney and lead Lisa Weagle finished with an unblemished 7-0 record and collected $20,000 plus 12 points towards the Pinty’s Cup. Team Homan would have also clinched a berth in the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup, however, their place was already secure as the event’s defending champ.

“It feels amazing,” Courtney said. “It was such a great week here in Thunder Bay. We had a really strong performance from start to finish and it was nice to be able to come out with a win today.”

It was Team Homan’s second straight final appearance in the series after falling to Sweden’s Team Anna Hasselborg two weeks ago at the Canadian Beef Masters. Homan leapfrogged Hasselborg, who also won the Princess Auto Elite 10, in the Pinty’s Cup points race now leading 28 to 24.

“We battled tough all week,” Miskew said. “It’s nice, after the last one especially, to come off and win the next one after the Masters, it’s great.”

Team Fleury, who cashed in $15,000 for their runner-up result, also includes third Selena Njegovan, second Liz Fyfe and lead Kristin MacCuish. Fleury, from Sudbury, Ont., joined Kerri Einarson’s former teammates this season for the start of a new Olympic cycle and the loss in the final was their lone blemish to their record this week.

Team Homan were well aware Fleury had been sharp on the draw all week and it showed to start with her landing on the lid to secure the all-important hammer to start the game. However, it was an unfortunate force for Fleury as she was unable to hit and stay for a deuce with her shooter rolling out and had to settle for a single.

Fleury flubbed on her skip stones in the second rolling too deep and Homan made her pay in a massive momentum-changing end. Homan bailed out her team big time with a triple takeout on her first skip stone and then pulled off a double on her last to score three.

“The second end wasn’t looking so great after my first rock kind of chapped off and gave them a double,” Miskew said. “When they slipped in a little bit and gave Rachel the triple, it was looking a lot better. We knew we’d could have at least a shot for one but we were a little fortunate when Tracy went deep and gave us the shot for three.”

It was an opportunity missed again for Fleury in the third as she was off the mark looking to bop Homan’s stone on the nose and create a chain reaction. She hit just on the inside to roll away as the counter stuck around for a steal and a three-point gap.

Team Homan used the force to limit Team Fleury to one point in the fourth with the skip hitting and finishing on the button to cut it down to 4-2 at halftime.

Team Homan strengthened their hold on the game in the fifth scoring another three-ender by avoid the guard and tap back Fleury’s counter far enough to drop another trey.

“They’re going all out for the steal at that point, so she gave us a tough shot. Rachel threw it great and just enough for three,” Miskew said. “To be up and have a bit of a cushion is always nice in any game. We’ll take that any time we can.”

Fleury got back into the game hitting for a deuce in the sixth but another double led to a single for Homan in the seventh to add some insurance. The four-point hole was too much for Fleury to climb out of as her team ran out of options (and rocks) coming home with the hammer in eight.

“They’re a great team and they’re really good at that touch game, which makes them great five-rock rule competitors,” Courtney said. “We knew we had to stay sharp and we had to stay sharp right to the end. Rachel had a really tough shot in seven and it could have looked very different in that eighth end. We’re happy we were able to pull it together and we’re looking forward to the next one.”

“It’s never over until it’s over in five-rock,” she added. “It’s such a great change to the game. You get to see lots of more precision shooting. It’s anyone’s game. There’s comeback, there’s blowouts, it’s really exciting curling.”

Courtney is already looking forward to the following Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event, next month’s Boost National in Conception Bay South, N.L., now that the team is on a roll.

“It feels great to hit that consistency again,” Courtney said. “We had spotty performances over the last couple of seasons, especially in the Slams. It feels good to be getting closer to that nice consistent play. I think there’s still lots for us to work on moving forward and we’re pumped to go to Newfoundland in a little less than month.”

Meanwhile, Team Elena Stern of Switzerland edged Japan’s Team Sayaka Yoshimura 6-5 in the Tier 2 final. Stern earned $10,000 plus the opportunity to move up the ranks by receiving an invitation to the 2019 Meridian Canadian Open in North Battleford, Sask., with airfare and accommodation provided.

Team Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., edged Edmonton’s Team Brendan Bottcher 6-5 in the Tier 1 men’s final and Saskatoon’s Team Kirk Muyres downed Team Scott McDonald of Kingston, Ont., 8-3 for the Tier 2 title.