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Koe eliminates Howard in Players’ Championship quarterfinals

TORONTO — Calgary’s Team Kevin Koe made it through to the men’s semifinals of the Players’ Championship after dispatching Team Glenn Howard 7-3 during Saturday’s afternoon action at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre.

Although Koe won his fourth Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title as a skip at the Players’ Championship last season, lead Ben Hebert is the only other holdover from that lineup with third B.J. Neufeld and second Colton Flasch coming on board this season. The new-look Team Koe won the Brier for Alberta in March.

Koe won the draw-to-the-button shootout to start with the hammer and converted with an open hit for a deuce in the first. Howard, from Penentanguishene, Ont., looked to reply in the second with a potential draw for two but had to settle for just a single as his shooter veered late and collided into Koe’s stone instead.

Even with a cluster of rocks cluttering up the four-foot circle in the third, Koe had enough room to draw to the tee line and bite enough of the button to score another pair and take a 4-1 lead.

Koe’s last of the fifth went haywire and hooked to hand Howard an opportunity to make a triple bump at the left side of the house for three points to tie it. Howard only counted a couple though as sweeper David Mathers couldn’t hold the line and their middle stone spilled out during the chain reaction with only two staying in the rings.

Howard’s final rock in six came short of removing the shot stone and instead connected with his own, which proved to be a critical mistake as it allowed Koe to draw for another three-count and extend the lead to four.

Another strong end from Koe in the seventh saw him sitting four and Howard didn’t bother throwing his last opting to shake hands and go home early.

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Koe will clash with Team Peter de Cruz of Switzerland in the semifinals after fourth Benoit Schwarz drew for the 7-6 extra-end victory to oust Team Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L.

Edmonton’s Team Brendan Bottcher scored two in the seventh and added a steal in the eighth to knock out back-to-back world champions Team Niklas Edin of Sweden 7-5. Bottcher caught a lucky break in eight with Edin having an opportunity to hit for two and the win but his last rock picked and missed the target.

Bottcher takes on Scotland’s Team Ross Paterson, who shaded Team Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., 6-5 in an extra end.

Down 3-1 at the break, Paterson tied it up with a deuce in five and stole singles in consecutive ends heading into the eighth. Jacobs had an easy hit for a deuce and also contemplated a tricky shot for three, but with his clock winding down to single digits, he opted for the safe pick to send the game into an extra end.

Jacobs sat on the tee line at the side of the four-foot circle, however, Paterson had kept the out-turn draw path open and was able to stick to his game plan to land on the lid.

The women’s semifinal matchups are Team Anna Hasselborg of Sweden versus Team Casey Scheidegger of Lethbridge, Alta., and Team Robyn Silvernagle of North Battleford, Sask., against Team Kerri Einarson of Gimli, Man.

Both men’s and women’s semifinals go down at 8 p.m. ET with broadcast coverage on Sportsnet 360 and streaming online at Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and Yare (international).

The men’s and women’s finals are scheduled for Sunday.

A $300,000 purse, split equally between the men’s and women’s division, is on the line with the winning teams cashing in $30,000 each. Also up for grabs is the Pinty’s Cup men’s title, which is awarded to the overall season points champion with a $75,000 bonus. Ottawa’s Team Rachel Homan clinched the Pinty’s Cup women’s title earlier in the week.