(by Jonathan Brazeau)
PICTOU COUNTY, N.S. — The latest chapter of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling’s “Battle of the Brads” will go down in Sunday’s Tier 1 men’s final at the KIOTI Tractor Tour Challenge.
Defending champions Team Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., square off against Team Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., for $30,000, 12 Pinty’s Cup points and a spot in the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup.
Brad Jacobs shoots a stone during the Tour Challenge men’s semifinals on Nov. 9, 2019, in Pictou County, N.S. (Anil Mungal)
Jacobs, who won his fourth GSOC title at this event a year ago, cooled the red-hot Team Brendan Bottcher 7-3 in Saturday night’s semifinals to hand the Edmonton club their first and only loss of the tournament.
Team Jacobs went 3-1 through the round-robin, losing to Bottcher no less, and defeated Team Glenn Howard 7-5 in the afternoon quarterfinals.
Jacobs pointed to the game against Howard as key to coming out sharp in the evening firing a jaw-dropping 98 per cent as a unit.
“I feel like we’ve been building every single game, getting stronger and stronger,” Jacobs said. “We had a really tough quarterfinal against Glenn’s team. They played really well, we were able to hang in there and I think that win really gave us a lot of momentum going into the semifinal.
“The boys just played phenomenal. That was probably our best game of the week. Looking forward to getting a good rest this evening and tomorrow and coming out fresh for the final.”
Although Bottcher opened with the hammer, Jacobs was able to wrestle control forcing his opponent to singles in the second. After counting a deuce in three and limiting Bottcher to another lone point in four, Jacobs put a stranglehold on the match in five with a soft tap and roll to score four points.
“I think we managed the scoreboard really well,” Jacobs said. “We took advantage of our opportunities. We were able to get off to a good start with an early force and then come back with a deuce and then another force and just really control the scoreboard well.
“The guys made everything in front of me. When we had an opportunity or got a break, we took advantage of it and that’s why we won today.”
KIOTI Tractor also happens to be one of Jacobs’s major sponsors and he’s looking forward to putting on a good show.
“It’s always nice when obviously the title sponsor of the event is one of our major sponsors, so everyone is happy all around when that happens,” Jacobs said. “It’s not every day that you get an opportunity to make it into a final that one of your sponsors is the title sponsor of, so it’s pretty neat. I’m sure they really excited about it and so are we so hopefully, we can come out tomorrow and play a really strong game and finish this week off.”
Gushue, a winner of 11 championships in the elite series, got through to his second straight GSOC final of the season doubling up on Calgary’s Team Kevin Koe 6-3. Team Gushue fell to Team Matt Dunstone in the Masters final two weeks ago in North Bay, Ont.
“We’ve been playing better this week than we did in North Bay, so certainly look forward to it,” said Gushue, who shot a team-leading 97 per cent. “We’ve been a bit sporadic in a couple of games but overall we’ve been playing pretty solid. It’s going to be a good match. It looks like Brad and his team are playing well, so I expect a lot of made shots.”
Gushue got off to a fast start with a deuce in the first, a steal of two in the second after Koe missed a runback double and never looked back.
After that, Gushue said, it was just all about managing the scoreboard in order to reach the final undefeated at 6-0.
“Really, as silly as it sounds, when you get up 4-0 you’re just trying to come home with the hammer whether tied up with or be in a better situation than that,” he said. “We executed really well, forced him a couple of times and blanked and were three-up coming home, which is a pretty comfortable situation.”
Team Gushue eliminated Team Niklas Edin 4-3 in the quarterfinals.
The women’s final sees world No. 1 Team Kerri Einarson of Gimli, Man., clash with reigning Olympic gold medallists Team Anna Hasselborg of Sweden. It’s a rematch of last season’s Players’ Championship final where Einarson edged Hasselborg for the crown jewel title.
Einarson ousted Japan’s Team Satsuki Fujisawa 7-4 while Hasselborg dispatched Team Nina Roth of the United States 8-5 in the semis to advance.
“Oh, it’s super exciting,” said Einarson, who has also won the BOOST National and two Tour Challenge Tier 2 titles. “We got off to a good start with a solid game and then we dropped two but we really picked it up and really caught onto the ice and the paths.”
Einarson went 2-2 through pool play and needed a tiebreaker win Friday night over Team Robyn Silvernagle to qualify for the playoffs. Entering as the No. 8 seed, Einarson faced undefeated Team Silvana Tirinzoni in the quarterfinals and came out on top 6-5.
“We’re having really good rock placement and getting our rocks in just some really good spots and putting some pressure on the teams,” Einarson explained. “Having to make them make the runbacks and the big shots.”
Hasselborg finished 3-1 through their group games and added a 7-3 victory over Team Kelsey Rocque in the quarters.
The Tier 2 finals, which will take place alongside their respective Tier 1 championships, will feature Team Korey Dropkin of the United States against Team Tanner Horgan of Winnipeg Beach, Man., and South Korea’s Team Min Ji Kim versus Team Jestyn Murphy of Mississauga, Ont.
Dropkin hammered Montreal’s Team Michael Fournier 7-1, Horgan topped Saskatoon’s Team Kirk Muyres 6-3, Kim cruised past Winnipeg’s Team Beth Peterson 7-2 and Murphy beat Team Corryn Brown of Kamloops, B.C., 8-5.
Championship Sunday gets underway with the women’s final first at 12:30 p.m. AT on Sportsnet followed by the men’s final at 4:30 p.m. AT on Sportsnet ONE. Online streaming is available via Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and Yare (international).