(by Jonathan Brazeau)
PARADISE, N.L. — Team Reid Carruthers were looking to play the spoilers against home-province heroes Team Brad Gushue of St. John’s and the Winnipeg rink achieved their goal in stunning fashion.
Carruthers stole points in the final two ends to win 5-3 in front of a sold out opening draw Tuesday night in the Tour Challenge at the Paradise Double Ice Complex.
It was the third matchup between the two teams already this season. Gushue won both their previous meetings this past weekend during the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard event — including a 5-3 victory in the final — and Carruthers was still tense when he stepped off the ice in Paradise.
“I’m still kind of on edge after that game because it was back-and-forth crazy, both teams were making great shots,” Carruthers said. “When you’re going into a round robin, you’re looking at some of your key games, some of the ones that might set momentum or you’re playing against the top seed and that game for us was definitely the one that probably meant the most to us not only because they beat us the last two times we played but because we beat the top team in our pool.
“It’s just going to be a matter of carrying the momentum into the next game.”
Carruthers opening the scoring with a single in the first after drawing to the four-foot while facing three. Gushue matched with a point in the second, Carruthers blanked the third and settled for one in four to go up 2-1.
Gushue made an incredible triple to count two in the fifth and briefly went ahead 3-2. Carruthers added one in six to knot it up and stole singles in the seventh and eighth when Gushue wrecked on his final shots to hush the crowd.
“It’s exciting and it kind of gives that feeling of what it was like in Edmonton when Kevin Martin was the hometown team in the Brier,” Carruthers said. “Everyone is cheering against you and they weren’t necessarily booing us when we made good shots but they were really loud when Brad was making big shots.
“It’s one of those things it almost makes you want to raise your level of play to try to silence the crowd when you’re the away team so it was fun.”
Elsewhere in men’s Tier 1 action, Toronto’s John Epping got a point in the extra end for a 5-4 victory over Calgary’s Kevin Koe. [PEI”s Adam Casey rink plays its first game at 4 this afternoon, against Carruthers.]
In the women’s Tier 1 division, Kelsey Rocque was victorious in her Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling debut with a 9-4 win in six ends over Val Sweeting during an all-Edmonton rink match.
Rocque, a two-time world junior champion, broke open a 1-1 tie with a four-ender in the third and added a steal of one in the fourth to lead by five. Sweeting got a three-ender in the fifth to narrow the gap but Rocque countered with a trey of her own in six to bring out the handshakes.
“It was really exciting, it was such a big crowd and it’s definitely very different for me but the girls helped me so much,” Rocque said. “I’m learning tons and it was a great game.
“To open with a win against a great team like that is huge and definitely helps the confidence and the nerves a little bit.”
Meanwhile, Sherry Middaugh, of Coldwater, Ont., edged Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones 5-4 with a single in the extra end.
Scotland’s Eve Muirhead stole singles in three ends, scored a deuce in the sixth, and held on for a 5-4 victory over Silvana Tirinzoni of Switzerland.
TIER 2 RESULTS
Reigning Ontario champion Mark Kean of Stoney Creek, Ont., earned a 9-1 victory over Rick Rowsell of St. John’s. … Colin Thomas took down Andrew Symonds 8-2 in an all-St. John’s rink match. … Heather Strong of St. John’s thumped Halifax’s Mary-Anne Arsenault 10-1 in six ends. … Sylvie Robichaud of Moncton, N.B. was victorious 6-4 against Charlottetown’s Suzanne Birt. … Jamie Sinclair of Blaine, Minn., took a 5-1 victory over Stacie Curtis of St. John’s.
NOTES: The Tour Challenge is the first of two new tournaments on the expanded seven-event 2015-16 Pinty’s GSOC season and features 30 men’s and 30 women’s teams split into two tiers. … Winners of the Tier 1 divisions also receive berths to the second new Pinty’s GSOC event, the season-ending Champions Cup. … Tier 2 champions earn byes to the next Grand Slam, the Masters, running Oct. 27 to Nov. 1 in Truro, N.S. … Television coverage of the Tour Challenge starts Thursday at Noon AT / 8 a.m. PT on Sportsnet.