PICTOU COUNTY, N.S. — Kevin Koe is on the board to start the KIOTI Tractor Tour Challenge.
Koe and his Calgary-based club needed an extra end to solve Winnipeg’s Team Mike McEwen 7-4 during the third round-robin draw Wednesday afternoon.
The reigning Brier champion Koe held the hammer in the extra end but didn’t need to make a heroic final shot. Koe already sat three stones and counted them all as McEwen misfired his last.
“It wasn’t how we drew it up but the McEwen rink is always strong,” Team Koe super spare John Morris said. “They played us really tough and in the Slams you can’t give an inch. We gave half an inch but we got it back in the extra.”
Morris, who has won 11 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling titles, is subbing at third this week with B.J. Neufeld on paternity leave. It’s a reunion for Morris and Koe as the two played together back in the day winning their first GSOC title at the 2004 Players’ Championship although their roles were reversed then.
“You know what? Some guys get better with age and that’s the case with Mr. Koe,” Morris said. “He’s a sure shooter and I’m more than happy to play any position in front of him.”
Morris also previously played with lead Ben Hebert during their legendary run with all-time great Kevin Martin capturing Olympic gold, the world championship, two Briers and multiple Grand Slams.
“Yeah, it’s been a while but no, I’m really pumped with this weekend,” said the 41-year-old Morris, who has focused on mixed doubles play in recent years. “I’ve got some great guys. It’s been a while since I’ve been with Benny and with Kevin and they’re just awesome shooters. I’ve got a lot of respect for Koe. He’s made a ton of shots and had a great career and I feel pretty grateful to be here this weekend.”
Elsewhere, Toronto’s Team John Epping also got out to a 1-0 start with a 7-4 win over Team Scott McDonald of Kingston in an all-Ontario battle. McDonald, who topped Epping in provincial playdowns last season, dropped to an early 0-2 record.
Scotland’s Team Bruce Mouat scored four in the seventh end to beat Team Peter de Cruz of Switzerland 7-2.
In women’s play, Edmonton’s Team Kelsey Rocque jumped out to an early lead and held off Winnipeg’s Team Jennifer Jones 9-4.
Rocque (1-1) regrouped following a tough 7-6 loss in Tuesday’s opener to Team Rachel Homan after her last rock picked and allowed the 10-time GSOC champions to score two for the win in the final frame.
“It felt good to come out as a team and play really well for the whole seven ends,” Rocque said. “It was a good game from our side, for sure.”
Jones opened with the hammer but struggled out of the gate giving up three points in the first and one in the second. After Jones was limited to a single in three, she left her last rock of the fourth end open allowing Rocque to knock it out and score four.
Despite the 8-1 advantage at the break, you can never count out the nine-time GSOC title winner Jones.
“They’re a great team and just because you’re up by that many points doesn’t mean they can’t come back,” Rocque said. “Five-rock rule and a really good team, so you’re still a little nervous and you still have to make shots. Just keeping with the process and making one shot at a time.”
Jones got back into it with a deuce in five followed by a single steal in six but shook hands early after Rocque tacked on another point in seven.
Reigning world champions Team Silvana Tirinzoni of Switzerland doubled up on Team Robyn Silvernagle of North Battleford, Sask., 4-2.
The Tier 1 divisions, featuring 15 of the top teams from around the globe based on the World Curling Tour’s Order of Merit, are split into three pools for round-robin play with the top eight overall qualifying for the weekend playoffs.
The Tier 2 divisions consist of 16 teams including the next 10 ranked teams on the World Curling Tour’s Order of Merit and six teams from within the event’s region.
Tier 2, Draw 3 Results
Round-robin action continues Wednesday at 4 p.m. AT at the Pictou County Wellness Centre.
The KIOTI Tractor Tour Challenge is the second of six events on the 2019-20 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling schedule. … Winners of the Tier 1 divisions earn $30,000 and berths to the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup. … Also up for grabs in the Tier 1 only are Pinty’s Cup bonus points. The leaders following the conclusion of the Players’ Championship in April will capture the Pinty’s Cup with additional prize money awarded. … Winners of the Tier 2 divisions earn $10,000 and promotions to face the world’s best at the 2020 Meridian Canadian Open.