TORONTO — It wasn’t quite deja vu for Team Bruce Mouat in the Princess Auto Players’ Championship.
Sure, the Scottish squad posted a perfect record once again to successfully defend the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling major title — capped with an 8-3 rout over Sweden’s Team Niklas Edin in Sunday’s final — but last year’s event was held in the Calgary bubble without any fans in the stands.
With the event returning to its more familiar home of the Mattamy Athletic Centre, this historic venue previously known as Maple Leaf Gardens, Team Mouat’s family and friends packed the Pinty’s Pub at ice level creating an electric atmosphere cheering, chanting and waving Scottish flags.
“We can’t thank them enough for travelling out and spending some time with us,” Mouat said. “Even though we didn’t really see them that much, they just had to watch us curl, it was great. Just to have the fans back in the stands and you hear cheering for good shots, so it’s really great to have that atmosphere back at the Slams.
“You’ve got your family and friends watching right behind your sheet, so you’re always hoping to do well for them, make them proud and I think we’ve done a really good job this week.”
The team of Mouat, third Grant Hardie, second Bobby Lammie and lead Hammy McMillan Jr., collected $35,000 from the $350,000 combined prize purse by winning their fifth Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling men’s title together plus a bonus $50,000 for finishing first overall in the Pinty’s Cup standings.
“This arena’s pretty special,” Mouat said. “To be here in 2018 and 2019, we had a feel for what it could be and to finally get back here and to play so well and win is very meaningful to us and we’re obviously still buzzing to get another Grand Slam title.”
Team Mouat have been on a tear on the tour as the Princess Auto Players’ Championship was their fifth consecutive Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling men’s final. Mouat captured the Champions Cup in the Calgary bubble as well, and the team picked up where they left off starting this season winning the Masters in October. The title streak came to an end in November finishing runners-up to Team Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L.
“I know the boys and myself train so hard to get to this level and prove we’re right up at the top of the standings,” Mouat said. “With two titles out of the three this year, it really is a very special achievement.
“It would have been nice to get five in a row and equal Kevin (Martin’s record) but maybe some other time.”
The reigning Olympic and world champions Edin, third Oskar Eriksson and second Rasmus Wranå played as just a trio all week as lead Christoffer Sundgren was out of the lineup due to a lower-body injury.
Despite playing short-handed, Team Edin also entered the final with an unblemished record. That meant the teams had to draw to the button to determine hammer. Mouat covered the pinhole, and Edin came close but not enough as he was 4 cm off the mark.
Although it was a rematch from the Beijing Winter Games gold medal game, it was no repeat. The Olympic silver medallist Mouat jumped out of the gate scoring three points in the first and stealing two points in the second when Edin wrecked on a guard.
The 5-0 stranglehold was too much to overcome. After recovering with a draw for a deuce in the third end and forcing Mouat to a single in the fourth, Edin’s draw in the fifth end was off the line and led to another double steal.
With the game out of reach, Edin earned style points performing a spin-a-rama on his last shot in the sixth end for a single and then conceded.
“They’ve obviously played great all season to win the Olympics and the worlds,” Mouat said. “In my opinion, one of the best teams that’s ever curled together, so very impressed and proud how we handled that game.
“Obviously, with the Olympics looming almost two months ago now, I really wanted to get that win, so really happy we were able to achieve that and to get the Pinty’s Cup as well.”
The Princess Auto Players’ Championship was the third event of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season featuring 16 of the top men’s teams and 16 of the top women’s team from around the world.
Earlier Sunday, Sweden’s Team Anna Hasselborg took two for the win in the eighth end to edge Team Kerri Einarson of Gimli, Man., 6-5 in the women’s final. Hasselborg became the first women’s team to win all four majors in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling series.
The 2021-22 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season concludes with the KIOTI Tractor Champions Cup, May 3-8, at the Olds Sportsplex in Olds, Alta.