Koe, Bottcher keep momentum rolling at Players’ Championship
TORONTO — Kevin Koe and his Calgary-based club cruised past Winnipeg’s Team Jason Gunnlaugson and into the triple knockout A finals of the Princess Auto Players’ Championship.
Koe kicked off with a score of four in the first end and added deuces in the fourth and sixth to double up on Gunnlaugson 8-4 during Draw 8 action Wednesday night at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.
“You know what? We’re playing really loose and I think we’re really enjoying ourselves,” Team Koe second John Morris said. “I haven’t had this much fun in two years. It’s kind of nice to know this is our last Players’ Championship as a team, and I always love coming to Toronto. It’s a great event here at the Mattamy and all the fans from the GTA are beauties.”
“It just feels good, really taking it all in and enjoying myself,” added Morris, who grew up in Ottawa and now lives in Canmore, Alta. “My sister just came into town, I haven’t seen her for a while, so I’m looking forward to hanging around in Toronto with her for a few days and hopefully win a few more curling games.”
It’s not only the farewell tour for Team Koe as they plan to part ways at the end of the season but Morris is also stepping back from men’s curling. The two-time Olympic gold medallist Morris, who competed in his third Winter Games in February, experienced a “dream come true” earlier this week when he got to throw out the first pitch at a Toronto Blue Jays game.
“I grew up playing little league baseball in Gloucester and my dad taught me how to pitch,” Morris said. “I was always a huge Blue Jays and (Montreal) Expos fan, so when I got the invite to go throw that pitch out, I was like on cloud nine. Especially because I got to throw it to Alejandro Kirk, one of my favourite Blue Jays, and it was just one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever felt, so thank you Blue Jays and the Rogers Centre.”
Team Koe climbed to a 2-0 record and now have three chances to qualify for the playoffs with their first opportunity Thursday when they take on Team Bruce Mouat. The reigning champions from Scotland advanced to the A-qualifiers following a 6-3 victory over Regina’s Team Matt Dunstone.
Gunnlaugson and Dunstone, both at 1-1, dropped into the B Event semifinals.
The triple knockout preliminary round 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.
Elsewhere in Draw 8, Edmonton’s Team Brendan Bottcher and Team Niklas Edin of Sweden moved onto the other A Event final.
Bottcher topped Toronto’s Team John Epping 5-3 and Edin escaped with a 7-4 extra-end victory over Winnipeg’s Team Mike McEwen.
“We’re doing good,” Bottcher said. “It’s been a little tricky out here so far but I think we’ve been taking it one end at a time. We’ve obviously made our share of the shots and I’m quite happy with being 2-0 right now.”
It’s actually the first Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event for Team Bottcher since Pat Janssen moved up from alternate to third. Bottcher said it’s outstanding to have Janssen, who grew up in Toronto, get to play with them in his hometown event.
“We’ve played a lot of games with Pat now, so it’s surprising that this is the first Slam he’s actually been in the lineup,” Bottcher said. “He’s just playing great. It’s awesome for him that it’s at home and I think it’s just a great way to end out the season.”
Epping and McEwen, who now hold identical 1-1 records, slipped into the B brackets and meet Thursday as well.
The Princess Auto Players’ Championship resumes Thursday with Draw 9 action starting at 8:30 a.m. ET / 5:30 a.m. PT.
Broadcast coverage of the Princess Auto Players’ Championship begins Thursday at Noon ET / 9 a.m. PT on Sportsnet, Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and Yare (international).
NO TICK ZONE
Teams cannot tick guards off of the centre line while the five-rock, free guard zone is in effect. Following an infraction of the rule, the non-offending team may decide to leave the situation as is.
The Princess Auto Players’ Championship is the third event of the 2021-22 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season featuring 16 of the top men’s teams and 16 of the top women’s teams from around the world with a combined $350,000 prize purse. Winning teams earn $35,000. … The Pinty’s Cup will also be awarded to the season champions following the conclusion of the Princess Auto Players’ Championship. Winners of the Pinty’s Cup receive $50,000 bonuses. … Tickets are available at the box office and online at thegrandslamofcurling.com/tickets.