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Oskar Eriksson skips Team Edin into HearingLife Tour Challenge men’s final

GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alta. — Sweden’s Team Edin, minus Niklas Edin, advanced to the men’s championship game of the HearingLife Tour Challenge despite losing their skip to a knee injury just prior to their semifinal clash against Canada’s Team Gushue on Saturday night.

Third Oskar Eriksson stepped up to the plate to throw last rocks and along with lead Christoffer Sundgren and second Rasmus Wranå continued on as a trio.

The “tre kronor” shined as they stole a point in the extra end to edge Brad Gushue’s crew from St. John’s, N.L., 6-5 at the Coca-Cola Centre.

“That came out of nothing,” said Eriksson, who shot 83 per cent. “We were so surprised that it happened, but we know he had a problem with the tendon behind the knee a couple of years ago. Hopefully, it’s not bad and we’ll see if he can play tomorrow and if not, maybe next week.”

Eriksson knew it was going to be a really tough game against the 14-time Grand Slam champion Gushue and just wanted to give it their best.

“We just said to each other to try and play good, keep it tight, maybe we can score a few blank ends with the hammer early, but they came at us from the get-go,” Eriksson said. “We just had to make a lot of shots.”

Fortunately, fellow Swedes Team Hasselborg were rinkside to cheer them on for moral support as well as help keep the mood loose and relaxed.

“That was fun,” Eriksson said with a smile. “I got a bit nervous when I realized I needed to skip now but they were making some jokes with me. That helped.” 

Team Edin have won three Grand Slam men’s titles together and finished runners-up to Team Gushue just two weeks ago in the Boost National.

Edin is questionable to play in Sunday’s final against Matt Dunstone’s team, who cruised past Kevin Koe’s club 7-2 in an all-Canadian clash.

Dunstone won the Masters in 2019 but this is his first Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling final with his new Winnipeg-based lineup of third B.J. Neufeld, second Colton Lott and lead Ryan Harnden.

“It feels great,” said Dunstone, whose team finished runner-up earlier this season in the PointsBet Invitational. “We’ve just been getting better with every game this week. We’ve had a pretty solid season to date, the second final of the year. We came in second place in the first one, so hopefully, we can finish it off tomorrow.”

Dunstone charged out of the gate scoring a deuce in the opening end and stealing one in the second for an early 3-0 hold. Leading 4-2 in the sixth, Dunstone made a spectacular shot to score three more points.

“We had control of the whole game,” said Dunstone, who shot 89 per cent. “The guys played great. It was definitely our most solid game to this point from top to bottom.

“I’m really proud of the guys. I’ve been struggling kinda early on this week, but they’ve hung with me and I’ve been able to give them a couple of good ones today.”

Team Rachel Homan and Team Kerri Einarson will face off in the HearingLife Tour Challenge women’s final.

Homan beat Sweden’s Team Isabella Wranå 10-6 and Einarson edged Team Eun-Ji Gim of South Korea 4-3.

Meanwhile, Team Korey Dropkin of the United States will play Canada’s Team Aaron Sluchinski and Canada’s Team Clancy Grandy will take on Canada’s Team Jessie Hunkin in the Tier 2 finals. The winners receive promotions to join the top flight in the Co-op Canadian Open, Jan. 10-15, in Camrose, Alta.

Dropkin defeated Canada’s Team Felix Asselin and Sluchinski stopped Canada’s Team Kody Hartung by identical 5-2 scores while Grandy beat Canada’s Team Kerry Galusha 8-5 and Hunkin halted Canada’s Team Christina Black 5-4.

The men’s finals kick off Championship Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET / 9:30 a.m. local time on Sportsnet followed by the women’s finals at 3:30 p.m. ET / 1:30 p.m. local time on Sportsnet ONE and Sportsnet 360.

Stream the finals on Sportsnet NOW (Canada) or Yare (international).