(by Jonathan Brazeau)
Reigning champions Team Brad Gushue will kick off the 2015 Masters, running Oct. 27 to Nov. 1 at the Rath Eastlink Community Centre in Truro, N.S.
Brad Gushue at the 2015 Tour Challenge in Paradise, N.L. (Photo: Anil Mungal)
The full match schedule for the second event of the 2015-16 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season was released Monday and Gushue’s red-hot rink from St. John’s is set to face Toronto’s Team John Epping in the opening draw.
The Masters features a powerhouse lineup with the top 13 men’s teams and top 13 women’s teams ranked on the World Curling Tour’s total order of merit plus Tour Challenge Tier 2 winners and sponsor’s exemptions.
Rinks making their Pinty’s GSOC season debut at the Masters include reigning Brier champions Team Pat Simmons of Calgary and 2015 world silver medallists Team Thomas Ulsrud of Norway on the men’s side and Sweden’s Team Margaretha Sigfridsson, with two-time Masters winner Alison Kreviazuk filling in at second, in the women’s division.
Sponsor’s exemptions were granted to Halifax-based teams skipped by Shawn Adams and Mary-Anne Arsenault. Adams, a four-time Nova Scotia provincial champion, formed a new team this season joining forces with 2004 Brier winners Mark Dacey and Andrew Gibson as well as two-time Brier and world champion Craig Savill. Arsenault won two world and five Scotties Tournament of Hearts titles playing on Colleen Jones’s legendary team and has skipped her own team to three provincial titles.
Rounding out the 15-team men’s and 15-team women’s fields are Team Jim Cotter, of Vernon, B.C., and Winnipeg’s Team Kerri Einarson, who both qualified for spots by winning the Tour Challenge Tier 2 titles in September.
Full event passes, weekend passes and single-draw tickets are now available for the Masters, click here to purchase your tickets today.
Last season’s Masters event in Selkirk, Man., saw Gushue hold on to beat Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen 8-6 to capture the men’s championship and Edmonton’s Val Sweeting win her first career Pinty’s GSOC title after defeating Sigfridsson 5-4 in the women’s final.
Team Gushue will have an extra incentive to defend their title as this year’s Masters champions earn spots to the second of two new events on the 2015-16 Pinty’s GSOC schedule. The Champions Cup features the top winners from the curling year facing off in one final event of the season and runs April 26 to May 1, 2016, at the Sherwood Park Arena Sports Centre in Sherwood Park, Alta.
The inaugural Tour Challenge opened the Pinty’s GSOC season last month in Paradise, N.L., with 60 teams split into two tiers of action. Calgary’s Kevin Koe and Silvana Tirinzoni of Switzerland took home the Tour Challenge Tier 1 titles, becoming the first teams to qualify for the Champions Cup.