PICTOU COUNTY, N.S. — Joël Retornaz and his team from Italy completed an undefeated run through the KIOTI National to capture their third Grand Slam of Curling men’s title and second in a row to start the season.
Retornaz overcame an early deficit to upend Niklas Edin and his squad from Sweden 6-5 during Sunday’s final and finish the week with an unblemished 7-0 record at the Pictou County Wellness Centre.
“This is the biggest stage and you play the top teams in the world here, so it definitely means a lot to go undefeated,” Retornaz said. “We’re showing that we deserve to be here, we deserve to win these kinds of competitions because we’re a good team. It’s super big what we’re achieving.”
The victory came just three weeks after Retornaz claimed the HearingLife Tour Challenge trophy in Niagara Falls, Ont., to kick off the Grand Slam tour.
Retornaz, third Amos Mosaner, second Sebastiano Arman and lead Mattia Giovanella collected $42,000 from the prize purse and will move up to No. 1 in the WCF’s world rankings.
“Winning one Slam is something huge for us. Winning two Slams, being a multiple Slam champion, is even bigger. Back-to-back Slam champion is amazing,” Retornaz said. “We would have never thought about it but we’re starting to believe that we belong to that No. 1 ranking in the world. I think the performance shows that we are one of the best teams in the world and actually now we’re No. 1. I’m super proud of my team.”
It wasn’t an ideal start for Retornaz though as he gave up his first steal of the week to open the scoring in the second end. Edin sat two stones in the house and Retornaz’s runback missed them both.
Retornaz regrouped and drew for a deuce in the third end to knot it up.
“We played the way we know we can play,” Retornaz said. “We were down two after two, maybe it was not an easy start for us but being down two with a deuce from the other team or a steal, it doesn’t really matter. It’s always two down, you know you have to work and regroup and play end after end and try to change the game.
“We did it very well today. We stayed calm, we kept playing and we showed what we can do. I’m super happy and super proud of my team. It’s been a great week here in Pictou County. I couldn’t ask for more.”
Team Edin fell into trouble in the fourth end after missing runbacks, but their skip bailed them out with a triple takeout on his first stone.
Edin attempted a double on his last, however, it connected too thick and didn’t get to the shot rock as Retornaz stole one to take a 3-2 lead.
An uncharacteristic miss from Edin on a blank attempt in the fifth handed over another point and the four-time Grand Slam champion wrecked on a guard in the sixth to fall behind 6-2.
Edin drew for a deuce in the seventh to cut the deficit in half, but that gave the hammer to Retornaz for the final frame with a two-point advantage.
Mosaner made a double takeout to open up the house and set the table for Retornaz to just have to make an open hit to concede a point but secure the victory.
“You know you pretty much have the game in your hand and you try not to make stupid mistakes because they will be all-in and they will try to force me to make mistakes,” Retornaz said. “Maybe you’re trying a double instead of a single peel and maybe you jam something and that’s how maybe they can create a steal of two. We just needed to play clean, shot after shot, don’t go too crazy and we knew we would bring this home.”
The team of Edin, third Oskar Eriksson, second Rasmus Wranå and lead Christoffer Sundgren pocketed $30,000 for finishing runner-up and going 3-1 through pool play.
Later Sunday, Canada’s Team Rachel Homan faces Team Eun-Ji Gim of South Korea in the KIOTI National women’s final. Watch live at 2:30 p.m. ET / 11:30 a.m. PT on Sportsnet, Sportsnet+ (Canada) or GSOClive.com (international).