Albertans score two in the final end for a 6-5 win over St. John's rink
Brad Gushue and his St. John’s rink cleared a big hurdle Saturday afternoon, but couldn’t quite get over another one that same night.
Brendan Bottcher of Edmonton made a last-rock draw through a port to score two points in the eighth and last end to edge Gushue 6-5 in the semifinal of the Meridian Canadian Open Saturday night in North Battleford, Sask.
The game came just hours after both had claimed quarter-final victories, with Gushue’s coming against veteran Glenn Howard of Ontario.
Before that game, Gushue had been 0-4 against the Howard rink this curling season, including once when Glenn Howard was unavailable and his son Scott, the team’s third, took over for a bosnpiel.
Howard had also defeated Gushue in the opening draw of the Open, the fifth Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event of 2018-19. But Gushue and teammates Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker proceeded to rattle off three straight wins to advance to the playoffs of the trickle knockout event, then finally vanquished Howard by a 6-2 score.
The semifinal was a rematch of last year’s Brier final, where Gushue bested Bottcher for a second straight Canadian men’s crown … and it was a close one, with both teams curling at 86 per cent.
Gushue had the only steal — a single point in the fifth end — but it wasn’t enough to overcome a Bottcher team that opened with last-rock advantage and scored a pair of two-enders.
Before that, Gushue hadn’t given up two points in a single end since the opening loss to Howard.
In fact, the six points allowed by the Brier champs in the semifinal was the most they had surrendered in a game in the entire event. Before that, they had only allowed a total of 15 points in five games, for a miniscule three points-per-game against average.
Bottcher, who is 5-0 in North Battleford, will face Toronto’s John Epping in today’s final.
Epping had lost two of his first three games, leaving him on the verge of early elimination, but rallied for three consecutive wins, including a 9-2 shellacking of world champion Niklas Edin of Sweden in Saturday’s other semifinal.