(by Jonathan Brazeau)
PICTOU COUNTY, N.S. — Some sharp shooting has put Team Brad Gushue in control of their destiny in the KIOTI Tractor Tour Challenge.
Brad Gushue in action during the fifth round-robin draw of the KIOTI Tractor Tour Challenge on Nov. 6, 2019, in Pictou County, N.S. (Anil Mungal)
The St. John’s, N.L., crew improved to a 2-0 record with a 7-3 victory Wednesday night over Sweden’s Team Niklas Edin.
Gushue has also been enjoying the warm welcome from the Atlantic Canada crowd at the Pictou County Wellness Centre.
“It feels great,” Gushue said. “We’re enjoying the atmosphere. The crowds here are great. Obviously, they’re supportive of us being out here on the east coast.
“We like the ice. The ice feels really good to us. We’ve got a good grasp of it and the guys are playing well.”
Team Gushue had to remain on their toes to score their victories shooting 95 per cent as a unit in their 6-4 opening win Tuesday night over Team Scott McDonald and fired 91 per cent versus Edin.
Gushue, who has won 11 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling titles, snapped a 1-1 tie hitting for three points in the third end and forced Edin into making a tricky draw in the fourth end that led to a steal of one.
Edin recovered with a hard hit into the pile to count a couple of points in five, but the double defending world champion shook hands early after Gushue matched by drawing for a deuce in six.
“The first game was a bit of a grind. Even tonight against Niklas you know they can put a three on the board at any point,” said Gushue, who curled a perfect 100 per cent. “I thought we stayed sharp for most of the game. We really controlled where we were putting the rock.
“It feels good. I’m liking how the guys are throwing it. I like our attitude out there. It feels like we do when we’re going really good, so hopefully, we can continue that in the round-robin and eventually into Saturday and Sunday.”
Team Edin are trending in the opposite direction falling to a 0-2 record and are already on the brink of elimination at the midway point of round-robin play.
Elsewhere in Draw 5, Winnipeg’s Team Mike McEwen drew level on the day to a 1-1 record with a 7-5 win over Team John Shuster. The reigning Olympic gold medallists from the United States also sit at 1-1.
In women’s action, Ottawa’s Team Rachel Homan earned a 7-5 victory over Japan’s Team Sayaka Yoshimura to move up to 2-0. Homan is the defending champion and has won a record 10 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling women’s titles.
“Both were really good games and well played by both teams,” Team Homan lead Lisa Weagle said. “It’s nice to have a 2-0 start.”
Team Yoshimura struck first with the hammer to start scoring a deuce in the opening end. That was the only point where they led as Team Homan rolled out to a 5-2 advantage with a three-ender in the second followed by a steal of two in the third.
Yoshimura managed just a single in four but stole one in five to narrow the gap but that was as close as she’d get. The teams alternated singles in six and seven and Homan put another point on the board with the hammer coming home in eight.
“We knew it would be a good game against them. They’re a quality team,” Weagle said. “We were just trying to stay patient, make sure that we were taking our chances to score when we could and keeping it as close as possible.”
Yoshimura finished runner-up at the Masters a week and a half ago but has hit a snag here starting at 0-2.
Winnipeg’s Team Jennifer Jones topped Japan’s Team Satsuki Fujisawa 7-5. Both teams hold 1-1 records.
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
- St-Georges 9, Hilliard 2
- Duncan 5, Crawford 4
- Arsenault 7, Brothers 6
- Feltscher 8, Je. Murphy 3
- Fournier 7, S. Jones 3
Round-robin action resumes Thursday at 8 a.m. AT at the Pictou County Wellness Centre.
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.