(by Jonathan Brazeau) CONCEPTION BAY SOUTH, N.L. — Neither snow nor rain was going to prevent Team Brad Gushue’s fans from packing CBS Arena Wednesday night and the local favourites from nearby St. John’s rewarded them with a win.
Brad Gushue (centre) shoots a stone as Geoff Walker (left) and Brett Gallant (right) prepare to sweep during round-robin action Wednesday night at the Boost National in Conception Bay South, N.L. (Anil Mungal)
Team Gushue continued their solid play on home ice in the Boost National climbing to a 2-0 round-robin record with a decisive 5-1 victory over Regina’s Team Matt Dunstone.
The fans were on their feet and Team Gushue received a standing ovation after making an open hit for a deuce and early handshakes in the seventh stanza.
“It was awesome,” Team Gushue second Brett Gallant said. “Again, they pretty much packed the place even with the snowstorm that’s going on outside, so it’s awesome to have the support. We love playing here, we love playing at home and we just use that to our advantage, feed off of that energy and it helps us immensely.”
It was a rematch but not a repeat of October’s Masters men’s final where Dunstone upended Gushue for his first career Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling championship.
Gushue, who has won 11 titles in the elite series, blanked the first couple of ends and his patience paid off in the third with a draw for a deuce.
Team Gushue’s lead extended to 3-0 in the fourth as Dunstone was unable to complete a double takeout and gave up a steal. Dunstone (0-2) scored his lone point in the fifth.
“We’re all throwing the rock pretty well,” Gallant said. “There are a couple of adjustments we could make to probably get a little bit better but we’ve been managing the ice pretty well, there’s a lot of curl, making quite a few shots and getting a few breaks.
Gallant said it’s nice to start 2-0 after dropping their opening game of the event last year and needing to qualifying for the playoffs out of the tiebreakers.
“That’s always a little bit tough,” he said. “You’re just battling and we had to go through the tiebreakers, so it’s important to win the first two and kind of put ourselves in a better spot.”
They’re not in the clear just yet though with Team Ross Paterson and Team Kevin Koe still remaining on their round-robin schedule.
“We have the defending champs and then the reigning Canadian champs to play, so they’re tough teams,” Gallant said. “Just have to be sharp.”
There must be something in the ice for Team Paterson as the Scottish side continued their strong title defence at 2-0 with a 6-1 decision against Team Koe of Calgary.
Paterson, who curled a perfect 100 per cent, scored two in the first, forced Koe to a single in the third and added three more points in the fourth. Koe (1-1) opted to end the night early after misfiring an angle raise attempt in the fifth to give up a single steal.
“We played well tonight,” Paterson said. “We’ve been on the wrong end of a few losses against those guys last year, so it’s great to get one on the board. … They’re always a tough team to beat so it’s nice to be 2-0. Two tough games coming up.”
Although Paterson said it’s special returning to the scene of his team’s first Grand Slam title victory, which came in their first season together, he appears to be focused on repeating his success rather than reflecting on the past.
“We’re here and we’ve got a tough pool so we’re going to win as many games as we can but we’ve gotten off to a good start,” Paterson said. “We look forward to the two games ahead.”
In women’s play, Team Tracy Fleury of East St. Paul, Man., stole a point in the eighth end to escape with a 7-6 victory over Sweden’s Team Isabella Wrana. Fleury, who captured the Masters women’s title, now holds a 2-0 record while Wrana slipped to 0-2.
Scotland’s Team Eve Muirhead is also at 2-0 following a 5-3 win against Team Casey Scheidegger (1-1) of Lethbridge, Alta. Lead Kristie Moore has moved up to skip this week with Scheidegger (maternity leave) out of the lineup. Julie Devereaux, who plays for skip Erica Curtis of St. John’s, N.L., is subbing at lead.
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.