(by Jonathan Brazeau)
CONCEPTION BAY SOUTH, N.L. — Local favourite Brad Gushue weathered the storm to score a 6-2 victory Tuesday night over Scott McDonald in the opening draw of the Boost National.
Brad Gushue in action during the opening draw of the Boost National on Dec. 10, 2019, in Conception Bay South, N.L. (Anil Mungal)
The 11-time Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title winner said it felt good to kick off the event in the win column with a surge in the second half.
“Boy, I thought we played a good game and I thought they played a great game,” Gushue said. “We put a really solid sixth end together to get a deuce and then a solid seventh to really force him into a tough shot but really the first five ends it could have gone either way.
“They had a couple of opportunities and we were able to make a shot to get out of it. We made a couple and then they made a shot. It was a well-played game and fortunately for us in the last three we made a couple more than they did.”
McDonald’s team from Kingston, Ont., started with the hammer and led 2-1 after five ends until Gushue’s crew from St. John’s took control from there. Gushue made an open tap for two points in the sixth to grab the lead and give the crowd something to cheer about and wave their rally towels.
McDonald gave up a steal in the seventh to fall behind by two and also misfired his last in the final frame as Gushue held on.
“It was quiet in here but obviously that deuce in six, getting the steal in seven and making a few shots in eight too, you could feel the crowd was a little bit more into it,” Gushue said. “The first five ends, they didn’t really give us much of a chance to get the crowd in the game. They did their job there and fortunately for us we did our job in the last three.”
As heavy winds and hard rain hit The Rock, the erratic weather also affected the rocks inside CBS Arena as teams struggled to result in a combined 15 stolen ends and 18 stolen points over the five games in action. Gushue said the ice was pretty good for what his team was anticipating.
“We thought the frost would creep in a little bit more and affect the rocks a little bit more,” he said. “We still had to be a little worried about it and cautious but overall the ice was really good. I thought they did a good job. I’m a little concerned about tomorrow with all of the traffic but certainly tonight it was definitely playable. There were no excuses and I think the number of shots that both teams made in the first five or six ends showed that it was pretty good.”
Calgary’s Team Kevin Koe also felt a bit of the heat giving up steals in the sixth and eighth ends to Regina’s Team Matt Dunstone, but the reigning Pinty’s Cup champions managed to fend off the Masters winners 6-4 in an extra end.
“It was tricky out there,” Team Koe third B.J. Neufeld said. “We had a really good start and got a handle of the ice early and then obviously with the humidity and all of the rain outside, that’s an ice-maker’s nightmare.
“We kind of knew that it would probably get a bit tricky and just really had to be on the ball, track the paths and you just have to trust that if the path hasn’t been thrown on for a while it’s going to be slow and it’s going to curl. I thought we did a pretty good job of managing the end even though it went to the extra but it was tricky.”
The Boost National is Neufeld’s first GSOC event of the season as he missed the first two while on paternity leave with his wife Sarah giving birth to their second daughter Grace.
“Obviously I missed it and felt like I had a couple of months off there,” Neufeld said. “It was good to have that and spend that with the family. The birth of our second child is amazing. I just wanted to make sure that I was there for that.
“It feels great to be back. I definitely missed it, missed being with the guys and competing and getting the first one here is huge.”
In women’s play, Team Casey Scheidegger of Lethbridge, Alta., stole two in the extra end to swipe an 8-6 win from no. 1 ranked Team Kerri Einarson of Gimli, Man. Lead Kristie Moore has moved up to skip this week with Scheidegger (maternity leave) out of the lineup. Julie Devereaux from Team Stacie Curtis of St. John’s, N.L., is subbing at lead.
Short-handed Team Satsuki Fujisawa of Japan rallied for a 6-5 win over Team Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg. Down 5-1 at the break, Fujisawa scored a deuce in the fifth and stole singles in the final three ends to complete the comeback. Team Fujisawa are only playing as a trio with lead Yurika Yoshida sick and staying at home. Team Jones lead Dawn McEwen is also not playing this week due to illness although they called upon Edmonton’s Laura Walker to fill in.
Reigning world champions Team Silvana Tirinzoni of Switzerland scored four in the fifth and added single steals in the seventh and eighth ends to beat Sweden’s Team Isabella Wrana 6-3.
Round-robin play runs through to Friday with the top eight teams overall in both divisions qualifying for the weekend playoffs.
NOTES: The Boost National is the third event and second major of the 2019-20 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season featuring 15 of the top men’s teams and 15 of the top women’s teams from around the world. … A $300,000 combined purse is on the line, split equally between both divisions, with the winners receiving $35,000 each plus berths to the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup in Olds, Alta. … Teams also earn points towards the Pinty’s Cup awarded to the season champions following the conclusion of the Players’ Championship in April.