THUNDER BAY, Ont. — Two undefeated teams will clash for the Tour Challenge Tier 1 women’s championship.
Ottawa’s Team Rachel Homan and Team Tracy Fleury of East St. Paul, Man., will face off for the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title after advancing out of Saturday night’s semifinals.
Homan slid past Team Nina Roth of the United States 6-5 in an extra end while Fleury brushed aside Team Kerri Einarson of East St. Paul, Man., 6-3.
“It feels great,” Team Homan second Joanne Courtney said. “It’s been a fantastic week here in Thunder Bay, and we’re really excited to play in a final.”
The teams have been on fire all week finishing tied at the top of the round-robin table with 4-0 records. Earlier, Homan eliminated Team Laura Walker 5-3 and Fleury ousted Winnipeg’s Team Darcy Robertson 6-3 in the quarterfinals.
“It’s nice playing in Northern Ontario,” said Fleury, who lives in Sudbury, Ont. “It’s always fun and the crowd has been great.”
Team Homan third Emma Miskew cleared the deck in the extra end knocking out three Roth stones with her second shot that set the table.
“That was shot of the year so far, I think, and the game-winner for sure,” Courtney said. “She threw it great and Rachel called the line perfectly. Really pumped when she made it.”
Roth stumbled on her skip stones throwing her first through the rings and her second hit and rolled out giving Homan an open draw anywhere in the house for the victory.
It’s the second consecutive GSOC final this season for Team Homan, who lost to Sweden’s Team Anna Hasselborg two weeks ago in the Canadian Beef Masters championship game. Homan has won seven titles in the series but not the Tour Challenge. A steal in the eighth end against Switzerland’s Team Silvana Tirinzoni saw the title slip away in the inaugural Tour Challenge women’s final in 2015.
For Fleury, it’s her second career GSOC championship game but her first with her all-new squad featuring Einarson’s former trio of third Selena Njegovan, second Liz Fyfe and lead Kristin MacCuish. Fleury fell to Homan in the 2015 National final with her previous squad.
The Tour Challenge has been good to Njegovan, Fyfe and MacCuish as they won the Tier 2 title twice with Einarson.
“It’s a great feeling,” Fleury said. “I’m really proud of the team and I think we’ve come a long way from where we started. I think we’re going to come out strong tomorrow.”
Einarson’s new squad consists of former skips Val Sweeting at third, Shannon Birchard at second and Briane Meilleur at lead. The foursome have been hot on tour winning four titles already this season.
“They’re all such good shooters,” Fleury said. “They always come out strong so we knew we’d have to bring our best game and we did today.”
Courtney expects the final against Team Fleury is going to be a close one.
“I think they’re really good at their touch game,” Courtney said. “I think Tracy’s been drawing really well this week. We’re going to have to make sure we’re putting lots of pressure on her and keep our rocks in good spots because they’re playing great.”
The Tier 2 women’s final will be held two sheets over featuring Japan’s Team Sayaka Yoshimura and Team Elena Stern of Switzerland. Yoshimura defeated Toronto’s Team Hollie Duncan 7-4 and Stern downed Regina’s Team Kristen Streifel in a 9-1 rout.
Meanwhile, Northern Ontario’s own Team Brad Jacobs will play for the Tour Challenge Tier 1 men’s championship against Edmonton’s Team Brendan Bottcher.
Jacobs and his Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., crew topped Switzerland’s Team Peter de Cruz 6-3 while Bottcher bounced Team Glenn Howard of Penetanguishene, Ont., 5-2 to reach his first career GSOC final.
The three-time GSOC title winner Jacobs said it’s really special to be in the final in Thunder Bay with the crowd on his side.
“Any time we get a chance to play in Northern Ontario, it’s always special,” Jacobs said. “Northern Ontario is our home; We’re Northern Ontario boys. Obviously, we’ve played in Grand Slams in Sault Ste. Marie in the past and those have been a great experience. If there’s another city that we’d like to play in other than Sault Ste. Marie, it’s probably Thunder Bay.
“As everybody knows from Northern Ontario, I would say Thunder Bay is kind of the heartbeat of Northern Ontario curling and has been for decades. It’s a special place to curl out of because the fans are so well-educated and there are a ton of curling fans in Thunder Bay and just a ton of recreational curlers.”
Both teams went 3-1 through pool play with Jacobs defeating Bottcher during their earlier encounter. Bottcher missed a double takeout attempt in the final frame to give up a steal and lose 5-4.
Bottcher and Jacobs trumped American teams during the afternoon quarterfinals. Bottcher defeated Team Rich Ruohonen 5-1 and Jacobs stopped Team John Shuster 7-6.
It’s a complete turnaround from Team Jacobs’s outing at the Canadian Beef Masters where they went winless at 0-4.
“We really played very well all week and to have made the final feels great,” Jacobs said. “Hopefully, we can come out tomorrow and put another great performance together and finish this thing off.”
Jacobs believes his crew will have to be nearly perfect in order to edge Bottcher for the title.
“They’re a great squad. They’ve really gotten a lot better as of recently and I think they’re right up there in terms of top teams in the sport,” he said. “It should be a great final and an awesome battle back and forth. It should be entertaining for the fans and everybody watching at home and we’re excited to be able to have an opportunity to win a Grand Slam.”
Saskatoon’s Team Kirk Muyres goes up against Team Scott McDonald of Kingston, Ont., in the Tier 2 men’s final. Muyres beat Toronto’s Team Charley Thomas 6-5 and McDonald stole two in seven and one in eight to rally past Team Mark Fenner of the United States 7-5.
NOTES: Winners of the Tour Challenge Tier 1 earn $20,000 of the $200,000 total purse plus berths to the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup event. … Points are also up for grabs in the Tier 1 division towards the Pinty’s Cup, which is awarded to season champions following the conclusion of the Players’ Championship in April. … Tier 2 winners earn the opportunity to move up the ranks receiving invitations to the 2019 Meridian Canadian Open in North Battleford, Sask.