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Mouat flying high again heading into Players’ Championship playoffs

Bruce Mouat and his Scottish squad have carried the momentum from their Humpty’s Champions Cup title victory all the way into the Princess Auto Players’ Championship semifinals at Calgary’s WinSport Arena.

Mouat capped an undefeated 5-0 run through Pool A with a convincing 6-1 victory over Switzerland’s Team Peter de Cruz during Friday’s round-robin finale.

Team Mouat, who topped Edmonton’s Team Brendan Bottcher 6-3 Monday for their second career Grand Slam title, were the only men’s club with an unblemished record and secured the No. 1 seed plus a direct bye to the semifinals.

“It’s nice to continue what we’ve seemed to gain last week in the Champions Cup,” Mouat said. “We’re using all of that experience from there and putting it into all the games that we’ve had so far. We’ve had some really good games against some really tough opponents. We’re enjoying ourselves and it’s paying off.”  

The recent world silver medallists hold a combined 11-1 record through the double bubble Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling events. Mouat’s lone loss came against Team Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., a week ago in Humpty’s Champions Cup pool play and was avenged in those semifinals.

“We didn’t get much of a rest and it was funny to go and play Bottcher again, after playing him in the final, the next day,” Mouat said. “There were no gaps, we didn’t lose any momentum I suppose, which in hindsight is maybe a good thing for us.”

Mouat opened with the hammer against De Cruz and converted for a deuce. De Cruz, who earned bronze at the men’s worlds, picked up his single point in the second and Mouat sprinted away from there matching with a single in the fourth, stealing one in the fifth and swiping two more points in the sixth. Team De Cruz fourth Benoît Schwarz’s angle raise somehow went right through all the wickets in the house untouched.

“There’s always a gap but the likelihood of you finding it is very slim and unfortunately for them it just found that hole,” Mouat said. “We had them in a bit of a tough spot to be playing a shot like that but you never know at this level. You expect everyone to be close and fairplay to him, he was really close but just missed it by an inch.” 

The five-point gap was enough for De Cruz to concede.

“We play them outside the Slams more often than the Canadian teams, so we know them quite a bit better,” Bottcher said. “We know how good they are. Normally, the games that we play against them are 50/50 on who’s going to win. We knew we were going to be up against a tough team and we just came out and did exactly what we had been doing the last four games.

“It’s working really well for us. We’re obviously really excited to continue tomorrow.” 

Elsewhere in Draw 15, Winnipeg’s Team Mike McEwen, Team Matt Dunstone of Wadena, Sask., and Team Gushue all finished with 4-1 records. Team McEwen topped Toronto’s Team John Epping 4-2, Dunstone downed Switzerland’s Team Yannick Schwaller 8-4 and Gushue drew for the winning single in the eighth end to clip Calgary’s Kevin Koe 5-4.

Short-handed Team McEwen, with third Reid Carruthers as interim skip, secured the second bye to the semifinals based on draw to the button shootout scores. Their skip stayed home to be with his wife, Team Jennifer Jones lead Dawn McEwen, who gave birth to the couple’s second child last week. Tyler Tardi of Langley, B.C., is filling in at third and second Derek Samagalski rounds out the lineup as a trio. Lead Colin Hodgson (personal) opted out of the bubble.

Dunstone was third among the group in shootout scores and will take on Team Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., in the quarterfinals. It’ll be a battle between the only two teams to win Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling men’s titles last season with Dunstone victorious at the Masters for the first major in his career while Jacobs won the other three consecutively at the Tour Challenge, National and Canadian Open.

The 11-time Grand Slam men’s champion Gushue grabbed the No. 3 spot and await the winner of a tiebreaker between Team Jason Gunnlaugson of Morris, Man., and three-time reigning world champions Team Niklas Edin of Sweden. Gunnlaugson, Edin, De Cruz and Schwaller all went 2-3, however, only one tiebreaker round can be played for the final spot in the quarterfinals and shootout scores once again determined the matchup.

Koe finished 1-4 while Epping went winless at 0-5.

Pairings are reseeded after the quarterfinals, so Mouat will have to keep tabs on both quarterfinal games. Although in an event like the Princess Auto Players’ Championship — with 12 of the top teams in the world and now with the field chopped down to the best of the best — it’s going to be a battle regardless.

“We’re obviously more happy to get to a semifinal than having to play a quarter against a really tough team,” Mouat said. “Whoever we end up playing we know that we’re going to have to play well to beat them because no game at the Slams are ever easy.”

The women’s playoffs are set with no tiebreakers required. Switzerland’s Team Silvana Tirinzoni and Team Kerri Einarson of Gimli, Man., secured the byes with 4-1 records. Sweden’s Team Anna Hasselborg (4-1) will go up against Japan’s Team Satsuki Fujisawa (3-2) and Humpty’s Champions Cup winners Team Rachel Homan (3-2) of Ottawa face Switzerland’s Team Elena Stern (3-2).

The tiebreaker kicks off Saturday’s coverage beginning at 2 p.m. ET / 11 a.m. PT on Sportsnet 360 followed by the men’s and women’s quarterfinals at 6 p.m. ET / 3 p.m. PT on Sportsnet 360 and the men’s and women’s semifinals at 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT on Sportsnet ONE. Online streaming is available at Sportsnet Now (Canada) and Yare (international).

Both championship games are scheduled for Sunday.