CHESTERMERE, Alta. — Glenn Howard said a big part of the reason why he’s still curling competitively is because of his love for playing in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling.
Howard was one of the original 18 skips in the GSOC during the inaugural 2001-02 season and at age 59, is back in the elite series with his team from Penetanguishene, Ont., this week in the Boost National at Chestermere Recreation Centre.
Team Howard took down Ontario rivals Team John Epping 6-1 in their first game during Draw 2 action Tuesday.
“I think they’re the premier events every year, year in and year out,” Howard said. “Obviously, it was disappointing we didn’t have any last year. We’ve always been on the bubble to get in them, so unfortunately we missed the [Masters], which was upsetting.
“We’ve had a great year, we’ve really played well and got ourselves up the rankings. We’re so pleased to be back at the Slams. We just love these events.”
Howard, who has won 14 GSOC titles as a skip including four at the National, advanced to the A semifinals of the triple knockout stage while Epping dropped into the B brackets.
“When you have a 16-team triple, it’s a perfect draw,” Howard said. “You win three before you lose three, that gets you into the qualifier. And if you lose three games you know you’re out. You’re not waiting for a draw-shot challenge. You’re not waiting on flipping a coin or whatever. You just know and I do like that.
“It’s probably a little bit harder because the pools can sometimes be a little bit easier.”
Howard secured hammer to start in the draw-to-the-button shootout and converted to score a deuce in the opening end. That had Epping chasing out of the gate, and he had to settle for a single in the second end. Howard continued to go to work taking two more points in the fourth end and tacking on back-to-back single steals in five and six to bring out the early fist bumps.
“I think we probably picked up on the ice a little quicker than they did,” Howard said. “We got a nice draw-to-the-button there, we got the last rock right off the bat, put a little pressure on them and got a nice deuce.
“We kind of put a lot of pressure on them the whole time. I think they struggled with the ice a little bit but we just seemed to pick up on it a little better for some reason. I don’t know why.”
Elsewhere in Draw 2, Team Yannick Schwaller of Switzerland made short work of Edmonton’s Team Brendan Bottcher winning 10-1 in only five ends.
Schwaller jumped out to a fast start with a huge score of four in the first end. The teams alternated singles in the second and third and Schwaller stole three in the fourth and two in the fifth to cruise away.
Team Niklas Edin of Sweden scored three in the fifth and stole three in the sixth during a 7-4 victory over Scotland’s Team Ross Whyte.
Schwaller and Edin continue their paths in A while Bottcher and Whyte fell into the B-side.
Team Silvana Tirinzoni of Switzerland scored two in the eighth and stole a pair in the extra end to complete a 9-7 comeback against Edmonton’s Team Laura Walker in the lone women’s game on the draw.
Triple knockout play continues with Draw 3 at 3 p.m. MT.
TRIPLE KNOCKOUT EXPLAINED
The triple knockout consists of three brackets: A, B and C. Teams must win three games in order to qualify for the playoffs. Each loss drops a team to a lower bracket until they lose three games and are out of the tournament. Two A teams (3-0 records), three B teams (3-1 records) and three C teams (3-2 records) advance to the quarterfinals.
NO TICK ZONE
Teams cannot tick guards off of the centre line while the five-rock, free guard zone is in effect during the eighth and extra ends only.
The Boost National is the second of five events on the 2021-22 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling schedule 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 prize purse is up for grabs with the winning teams earning $33,000 plus spots in the season-ending KIOTI Tractor Champions Cup. … Triple knockout play runs through to Saturday morning. The quarterfinals and semifinals are also Saturday with both finals set for Sunday. … Tickets are available at boost.goigniter.com.