(by Jonathan Brazeau) TRURO, N.S. — There’s no rest for the world’s best with Team Jennifer Jones and Team Brad Gushue arriving at the Canadian Beef Masters straight from playing in last weekend’s China Open.
Jet lag? What jet lag? Both teams managed to open their title defences in the win column Wednesday night although both needed extra ends to secure their victories with identical 7-6 scores.
“I’m feeling great, actually,” a chipper Jones said following the match. “We had a great flight over and had a ton of fun over there. We feel pretty good, all things considered.”
Jennifer Jones shoots a stone during the fifth draw of round-robin play at the Canadian Beef Masters on Oct. 24, 2018, in Truro, N.S. (Anil Mungal)
The reigning world women’s champions Team Jones slipped past Team Darcy Robertson in an all-Winnipeg club battle while the back-to-back Brier winners Team Gushue, from St. John’s, N.L., got by Team Matt Dunstone from Regina.
“It’s pretty big,” Jones said. “Obviously, we flew in a little bit late. Just to get that W under our belts, we didn’t start out well so pretty proud with how we found a way to grind that one out.”
Team Jones lead Dawn McEwen did not make the trip to China as former second Jill Officer, who stepped back into an alternate role after last season, filled in and assisted in capturing the bronze medal.
“It was nice to have Jilly out there,” Jones said. “We made her sweep every single rock, I think, because it was super heavy in China. It was a ton of fun and like I’ve said, I knew she was going to retire but she’ll always be a part of our team in some way.”
Jones had a bit of a rough start against her provincial rival with Robertson scoring a deuce in the first and stealing one in the second to jump out to an early 3-0 advantage. The nine-time Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title winner Jones was forced to a single in the third and Robertson replied with a point in the fourth to re-establish the three-point gap.
That’s when Jones found her groove with a deuce in the fifth followed by steals of two in the sixth and one in the seventh to lead 6-4 coming home. Robertson (1-1) held the hammer for the eighth end and looked like she had a shot for the win but rolled too far and only counted two.
Still, that forced OT but Jones made no mistake on her last with an open hit.
“They’re a tough team and it usually comes down to the wire,” said Jones, who defeated Robertson in last season’s Manitoba Scotties final. “Thankfully, we had the last one in the extra.”
Gushue, who finished second in China, was a magician to pull off his victory crediting it all to “smoke and mirrors.”
“I’m not really tired, I’m kind of in a fog, to be honest,” said Gushue, who won his 11th Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title last month at the Princess Auto Elite 10. “It just doesn’t feel comfortable. I was pretty tired at the start of the game and I got better as it went on.
“I don’t know if I’m going to be able to sleep now tonight. Our clocks are all out of whack, that’s for sure. Hopefully, we can adjust over the next couple days and get some regular rest and stuff like that, so we’ll see.”
Gushue forced Dunstone (0-2) to a single in the first and scored a deuce in the second to grab a short-lived 2-1 lead. Dunstone responded by potting a pair of his own in the third and stole one in the fourth to go up 4-2.
After alternating singles in five and six, Gushue got ahold of the lead again tapping for a trey in the seventh.
“We made a lot of shots,” Gushue said. “I think I made a wrong call on [third Mark Nichols’] first one. We should have played a double. We tried to roll and Mark made it good but I wanted to play the double and I second-guessed myself. It looked like we may just get away with a two there but I made a really good runback on my first one and then laid three …
“To get the lead back, it kind of put the momentum on our side. If we only get two there, they have hammer in the last end [tied] and probably going to win. To get that third point, it was huge.”
Dunstone was limited to just an equalizing single in eight to knot it up and require bonus curling. Gushue avoided having to make the hero shot for the win as Dunstone hit and rolled too far with his final rock.
“For six ends, it was a little foggy out there,” Gushue said. “I thought we played pretty good in the seventh, eighth and ninth ends. Fortunately, I didn’t have to throw the last one in the extra, which is always nice.”
Team Gushue and Team Jones posted perfect 7-0 records to win the Masters titles last year in Lloydminster, Sask.
Elsewhere in Draw 5 action, Ottawa’s Team Rachel Homan moved up to a 2-0 record with, what else, an 8-7 extra-end victory over Team Silvana Tirinzoni of Switzerland. Tirinzoni, who finished runner-up at the Princess Auto Elite 10, fell to a 0-2 record.
World junior champions Team Kaitlyn Jones (2-0) picked up another stunning victory scoring three in the eighth end to upset Team Kerri Einarson, the World Curling Tour’s year-to-date No. 1 club, 6-5. Einarson, from Gimli, Man., went even on the day at 1-1.
The only game that ended early saw Team John Shuster of the U.S. trump Team Jason Gunnlaugson of Morris, Man., 8-1 in five ends. Shuster improved to a 2-0 record while Gunnlaugson is now down to 0-2.
The Canadian Beef Masters is the second event and first major of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season with 15 of the top men’s teams and 15 of the top women’s teams from around the world. Divisions are split into three pools for round-robin play during the week with the top eight overall qualifying for Saturday’s quarterfinals. The semifinals and finals are set for Sunday.
NOTES: Winners take home $30,000 of the $250,000 total purse plus berths to the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup in April. … Points are also on the line for the Pinty’s Cup, which is awarded to the overall season champions following the conclusion of the Players’ Championship.