PICTOU COUNTY, N.S. — Patience paid off for Team Brad Gushue to nab a playoff berth in the KIOTI Tractor Tour Challenge.
Gushue, from St. John’s, N.L., snapped a tied game in the seventh end scoring four points to defeat Team Glenn Howard of Penetanguishene, Ont., 6-2 during the eighth round-robin draw Thursday afternoon.
Team Gushue stayed undefeated at 3-0 with one more pool play game in hand Friday.
“It’s great,” Team Gushue lead Geoff Walker said. “Any time you can win three games in a Slam and get yourself pretty much guaranteed a quarter is always a good thing. A lot would have to go wrong for three wins to not get you directly in, so that’s always a nice bonus.”
Gushue, who has won 11 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling titles and finished runner-up at the season-opening Masters, has been solid shooting a tournament-leading 98.9 per cent through their first few games with third Mark Nichols firing at 94.3 per cent.
“The back-end is lighting it up right now,” Walker said. “(Second) Brett (Gallant) is playing well and I’ve just got to try and get a few in play here and there. We’re comfortable. We’re coming off a good week at the last Slam and building the confidence back.”
Gushue opened with the hammer and the chase was on as the teams alternated single points through the second and fourth ends and again through the fifth and sixth.
The waiting game ended in the seventh as Gushue struck with a double takeout on his first skip stone and was able to pick out Howard’s shot rock with his last to count the critical four count that led to early handshakes.
“They always play us tough,” Walker said. “It seems like we’ve had a lot of tough games and close games with them over the last few years.
“We had control, I mean, there were times when we were only up one but we seemed to have control. They were chasing us more so than us chasing them. We just tried to keep putting the pressure on and making them make the tough shots.”
Howard now sits with a 2-1 record.
Elsewhere in Draw 8, Calgary’s Team Kevin Koe climbed to a 2-0 record with a 7-2 win over Scotland’s Team Bruce Mouat (1-2).
Sweden’s Team Niklas Edin got on the board to remain in the mix at 1-2 picking up a 7-2 victory against Toronto’s Team John Epping.
Team John Shuster of the United States counted five in the seventh end for a 9-3 decision versus Switzerland’s Team Peter de Cruz. Shuster improved to a 2-1 record while De Cruz dropped to 0-3.
Team Nina Roth moved up to 3-0 in the women’s division and clinched a playoff spot after defeating Sweden’s Team Isabella Wrana 7-5.
Roth is away on maternity leave and third Tabitha Peterson has moved up to take the reins this week.
“It feels really good,” Peterson said. “We’re playing well, we’re jiving, we’re feeling the ice and we hope we can keep it rolling through the rest of the tournament.”
The whole lineup has been shuffled with Becca Hamilton sliding over to third, alternate Tara Peterson jumping in at second and Aileen Geving, who returned from her own mat leave this season, coming back at lead.
“We put a lot of preparation and planning into this season knowing Nina’s pregnancy and jumping Aileen back in after having a baby last year,” Tabitha said. “Everyone was super flexible with what positions they would play, so we just put a lot of intent into making decisions.”
Team Roth led by one with the hammer coming home, but Peterson needed to make a draw with her last and landed right on the lid.
“It felt good,” Tabitha said. “I had pretty good draw weight the whole game, so I felt pretty confident in my sweepers getting it there for me too.”
Wrana fell to a 0-2 record.
The Tier 1 divisions, featuring 15 of the top teams from around the globe based on the World Curling Tour’s Order of Merit, are split into three pools for round-robin play with the top eight overall qualifying for the weekend playoffs.
The Tier 2 divisions consist of 16 teams including the next 10 ranked teams on the World Curling Tour’s Order of Merit and six teams from within the event’s region.
Tier 2 results
- Peterson 7, Hilliard 3
- Crawford 8, Glynn 3
- Calvert 8, S. Jones 3
- Stevens 7, K. Thompson 4
- Grattan 6, Ja. Murphy 5 (EE)
Round-robin action continues at 8 p.m. AT at the Pictou County Wellness Centre with broadcast coverage on Sportsnet East and Sportsnet 360 and online streaming available via Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and Yare (international).
The KIOTI Tractor Tour Challenge is the second of six events on the 2019-20 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling schedule. … Winners of the Tier 1 divisions earn $30,000 and berths to the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup. … Also up for grabs in the Tier 1 only are Pinty’s Cup bonus points. The leaders following the conclusion of the Players’ Championship in April will capture the Pinty’s Cup with additional prize money awarded. … Winners of the Tier 2 divisions earn $10,000 and promotions to face the world’s best at the 2020 Meridian Canadian Open.