(by Jonathan Brazeau)
TRURO, N.S. — John Epping has claimed all four majors in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling.
Epping captured the elusive Canadian Beef Masters with a 7-4 victory over Calgary’s Kevin Koe in Sunday’s men’s final at Rath Eastlink Community Centre.
John Epping shoots a stone during the Canadian Beef Masters semifinals on Oct. 28, 2018, in Truro, N.S. (Anil Mungal)
It’s the second title for third Mat Camm while second Brent Laing claimed No. 16 and lead Craig Savill picked up his 13th. The front-end dynamic duo captured 12 together during their days with Glenn Howard and now also a record seven Masters title victories.
“It feels awesome,” Epping said. “We played pretty solid all week and I finally really started to get a hot hand today. I was able to play pretty good. The boys have played great all week and it was my time to show up today.”
“These events are so hard to win and even just to make a final or the semifinals are hard,” he added. “It’s the best teams in the world and every chance you get to win one, if you don’t you feel disappointed. It’s just nice to finish this one off.”
Laing left Team Howard to join Koe during the previous quadrennial winning the 2016 Brier and world championships and representing Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics. Savill, who stepped from the sport in 2015 to battle Hodgkin’s lymphoma, was ready to return full-time after being declared cancer-free and reunited with his longtime friend this season.
“It’s just great to build on,” Epping said. “It feels like it’s coming together pretty easy for us and we know we still have lots of work to do and still tons of work for this team. It’s just nice to play well today as a team in big games, which is huge.”
Team Epping collected $30,000 of the $250,000 total purse plus a berth in the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup and 12 points towards the Pinty’s Cup, which is awarded to the season champion following the conclusion of April’s Players’ Championship.
“It’s huge for us,” Epping said. “We want to play in every Slam that we can and to qualify for that one, make sure we’re in all seven now probably this year, is awesome. Also, the Pinty’s Cup too to get some points and get ourselves in the mix for that. It’s great.”
Koe, who entered the final undefeated winning six consecutive games, held the hammer to start but was unable to capitalize scoring just a single in the first frame. Epping made an open tap for two in the second to pull ahead and didn’t relinquish the lead.
The five-time GSOC title winner Koe struggled with his draw shots rolling through the rings and out the back in the fourth to give up a point, and he conceded two more in the fifth when he was light.
You can never count out Koe though and got his deuce in the sixth to close within two. Epping fell into a bit of trouble in the seventh and conceded a steal of one that cut the deficit down to 5-4, which wasn’t too bad for him considering it meant retaining the hammer coming home for the final end.
It was a bad break for Koe though as his last in the eighth picked something and veered off target. Epping fired one of his typical angle raises to kick out the counter, tack two more points on the board and secure the championship.
“We played a good scoreboard today and stayed in control pretty much the entire game,” Epping said. “It was a little scary late there but I’m happy that I had that one to win.”
“Time’s were intense but I think that’s part of being in the zone today,” he added. “I felt really confident there, especially with that shot there that I had to throw. I felt really good the last few ends.”
The Canadian Beef Masters is the second event and the first major of the 2018-19 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season.