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Koe reaches Players’ Championship final to clinch Pinty’s Cup

TORONTO — Calgary’s Team Kevin Koe secured the Pinty’s Cup as the overall season points champions in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling.

Koe cashed in the title and the $75,000 bonus prize after advancing to the Players’ Championship men’s final with a 9-8 extra-end win Saturday night over Team Peter de Cruz of Switzerland.

“It’s great,” Koe said. “It’s been a long few weeks for us but to come through and make the final at the Players’ again is a great accomplishment. To lock up the Pinty’s Cup is pretty cool. It’s the first time for me to win it.”

Koe captured the Players’ Championship last year but returns to the final with a retooled roster. Lead Ben Hebert is the only other holdover with third B.J. Neufeld and second Colton Flasch coming on board at the start of the season. The new additions have fit right in with the team winning the Brier and earning silver at the world championship.

“It’s pretty, pretty amazing the year we’ve had just from the Brier, our worlds run and to win that Pinty’s Cup and a very consistent and pretty special year,” Koe said. “It’s going to be tough to duplicate it again.”

Worlds collided again as Koe and De Cruz clashed last weekend in Lethbridge, Alta. Koe emerged victorious in their semifinal showdown and it was another nail-biting meeting between the two powerhouse clubs here.

De Cruz led 6-5 after six, but Koe was threatening to score big in the seventh end. Team De Cruz fourth Benoit Schwarz made a sensational in-off double bump to land shot rock but left enough of an opening for Koe to nudge his shooter through and score three for the two-point lead.

Team Koe was still disappointed with Neufeld banging his brush as it could have been a score of four with the shooter spilling out the back.

A deuce in eight for De Cruz forced the extra end and Koe came through in the clutch, as usual, delivering the winning shot.

Edmonton’s Team Brendan Bottcher meets Koe in Sunday’s Battle of Alberta final and a rematch of the Brier gold-medal game.

Bottcher beat Scotland’s Team Ross Paterson 7-4 to reach their third Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling final of the season. Team Bottcher finished runners-up at the Tour Challenge Tier 1 in November and captured their first title in the series at the Meridian Canadian Open in January.

“They seemed to have gotten better and better,” Koe said. “No surprise we’re playing them. They look like they’re playing well this week and we’re going to be in tough again.”

Fate was in Team Koe’s hands to clinch the Pinty’s Cup thanks to a consistent season that also saw them finish runner-up in the Canadian Beef Masters. The only way Team Bottcher would have been able to score enough points for the title would have been if they faced Team De Cruz in the final and defeated them, too.

Ottawa’s Team Rachel Homan took home the Pinty’s Cup women’s title earlier in the week.

Meanwhile, Sweden’s Team Anna Hasselborg made it seven straight wins in the Players’ Championship to reach the women’s final. The undefeated reigning Olympic gold medallists edged Team Casey Scheidegger of Lethbridge, Alta., 5-4.

It’s the third Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling final this season for Hasselborg, who kicked off the 2018-19 campaign capturing her first couple titles in the series back-to-back at the Princess Auto Elite 10 and Canadian Beef Masters.

Hasselborg takes on Team Kerri Einarson of Gimli, Man., who downed Team Robyn Silvernagle from North Battleford, Sask., 7-4. Einarson finished runner-up to Homan in the Boost National final in December.

The men’s final is scheduled for Sunday at Noon ET followed by the women’s final at 4 p.m. ET. Both games air on Sportsnet 360 with the women’s final also on the main Sportsnet channels. Online streaming is available at Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and Yare (international).

A $300,000 purse, split equally between the men’s and women’s division, is on the line with the winning teams collecting $30,000 each.

The Players’ Championship is the penultimate 2018-19 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event with the season concluding at the Humpty’s Champions Cup, April 23-28, in Saskatoon.