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Slam dunk: Gushue goes unbeaten in winning Tour Challenge

Brad Gushue (right) and teammates (from left) Geoff Walker, Brett Gallant and Mark Nichols hoist the championship trophy after winning the Tour Challenge in Regina on Sunday.
Brad Gushue (right) and teammates (from left) Geoff Walker, Brett Gallant and Mark Nichols hoist the championship trophy after winning the Tour Challenge in Regina on Sunday.

As defending Canadian and world men’s champions, Brad Gushue and his rink are the team to beat this curling season, but nobody has done it yet.

Gushue and his St. John’s rink of Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker walloped Norway’s Steffen Walstad 9-1 Sunday in Regina to win the Tour Challenge, the first event on the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling 2017-18 schedule.

The game — which went just six ends before Walstad conceded — capped off a week that saw Gushue and Co. go 7-0. That included four preliminary-round games that also ended early and a 5-2 semifinal victory over Brad Jacobs of Northern Ontario. The only real spot of trouble came in the quarter-final, which saw Gushue need to steal two points in an extra end for a win over Reid Carruthers of Winnipeg, In that one, Carruthers missed a chance to win when his last shot — a draw attempt — was heavy.

Gushue, who opened the Challenge with two games that saw him curl 100 percent, had a 97 percent rating in the final.

“It feels good,” he told thegrandslamofcurling.com’s Jonathan Brazeau.

“Our team played really good this week and obviously got lucky there in the quarter-finals, but every other game we played, we played really solid and controlled it.

“It’s nice to win the Tour Challenge, haven’t won it before.”

Gushue had advanced to the final of the inaugural Tour Challenge at the Paradise Double Ice Complex in 2015, but lost to Edmonton’s Kevin Koe. Last year, the rink made it to the playoffs but with Nichols at the helm as Gushue was sidelined by injury.

With Sunday’s result, Gushue becomes the first skip to win six different events in the Grand Slam series. Only the Humpty’s Champions Cup is left on his Grand Slam to-do list, and the victory over Walstad — which came with a $20,000 first prize — guaranteed Gushue and his rinkmates will be in Calgary for that April, 2018 event, which will feature the season’s GSOC winners.

The Tour Challenge was the first time that Gushue, Nichols, Gallant and Walker had curled as a team this season, but this was nevertheless the third straight week of competition for the quartet. In late August, Gushue won the inaugural Everest Challenge in Fredericton, N.B., as skip of a drafted mixed team, then all four competed competed separately at last week’s Canad Inn Mixed Doubles Championship in Winnipeg, where Gallant and partner Jocelyn Peterman lost in the final.

 

sports@thetelegram.com

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