(By Jonathan Brazeau)
CONCEPTION BAY SOUTH, N.L. — Calgary’s Team Kevin Koe clinched a playoff spot at the Boost National with a 6-3 victory over local favourites Team Brad Gushue during Friday’s round-robin finale at the soldout CBS Arena.
Kevin Koe shoots a stone during the 13th round-robin draw of the GSOC’s Boost National on Dec. 13, 2019, in Conception Bay South, N.L. (Anil Mungal)
The reigning Pinty’s Cup champion Koe wrapped up pool play with a 3-1 record to bypass the tiebreakers and head straight to the quarterfinals.
“It feels good because we knew we were in a tiebreaker if we lost,” Koe said. “We weren’t going to be one of the fortunate teams to sneak through. Always feels good to beat Brad. Over the past couple of years he’s had a bit our number at times. We’re in the quarters. We’re where we want to be.”
The 11-time Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title winner Gushue had already punched his playoff ticket after winning his first three games of the event.
Even with relatively little on the line for the crew from nearby St. John’s other than seeding, their fans packed the stands from end to end and roared as they scored a deuce in the fourth to grab a 3-2 lead heading into the break.
Koe blanked back-to-back ends and his patience paid off in the game-changing seventh end. Gushue fell into a bit off trouble and came up short on his last, allowing Koe to capitalize and score four points to quiet the crowd.
“It was a pretty well-curled game for the most part,” Koe said. “I mean, there’s always going to be some misses out there. We hung close, got force and never got down a deuce, which is always key against Brad.
“We had him in some heat in seven. We left him a bit of an opening, he had to make a good shot and fortunately for us, and a little surprising, he missed the draw there and that was a big shot for sure.”
Team Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., also qualified with a 4-3 victory over Japan’s Team Yuta Matsumura and Team Niklas Edin of Sweden scored a 6-1 victory over Edmonton’s Team Brendan Bottcher to nail down the top seed of the playoffs. Jacobs, Edin and Bottcher all finished the round-robin at 3-1.
“It feels really good,” said Jacobs, who just won his fifth GSOC title last month at the KIOTI Tractor Tour Challenge. “I think we’re playing with a lot of confidence right now and have been building every game. The guys are playing unbelievable in front of me. Everybody has got a really good attitude and mindset. Just happy to be around for the weekend and going to compete hard in the playoffs.”
Edin awaits the tiebreaker winner between Winnipeg’s Team Mike McEwen and defending champions Team Ross Paterson of Scotland. The other three quarterfinals games are Jacobs vs. Bottcher, Gushue vs. Team Peter de Cruz of Switzerland and Koe vs. Scotland’s Team Bruce Mouat.
Jacobs lost his first game of the tournament to Bottcher but turned the page and is now riding a three-game winning streak.
“I think we all came in with just a ton of confidence,” Jacobs said. “We’ve been doing all of the right things this season, great habits and because of that we were able to just put it behind us, move on and come out strong in the next game.”
In the women’s tiebreakers, Team Satsuki Fujisawa of Japan stole a point in the eighth end to eliminate Team Kerri Einarson of Gimli, Man., 3-2 and Team Robyn Silvernagle of North Battleford, Sask., downed reigning world champions Team Silvana Tirinzoni of Switzerland 9-3 to advance.
Team Fujisawa qualified despite only playing as a trio this week as lead Yurika Yoshida (illness) did not join them on the trip.
Fujisawa will take on No. 1 seed Team Elena Stern of Switzerland while Silvernagle faces No. 2 seed Team Tracy Fleury of East St. Paul, Man., in the women’s quarterfinals. Stern and Fleury finished at the top of the leaderboard with unblemished 4-0 records.
The other two women’s quarterfinals are Winnipeg’s Team Jennifer Jones vs. Team Eve Muirhead of Scotland and Calgary’s Team Chelsea Carey vs. Team Anna Hasselborg of Sweden.
The men’s quarterfinals go down at 5 p.m. local time (3:30 p.m. ET; Sportsnet ONE) followed by the men’s and women’s semifinals at 8:30 p.m. local time (7 p.m. ET; Sportsnet ONE). Both finals are set for Sunday.
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. Qualification is based on the WCF World Team Ranking system. … 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.