Brad Gushue has long said the Players Championship in Toronto is his favourite event on the annual professional curling schedule. And his play through the first part of the final Grand Slam event of the 2018-19 season has certainly reflected that.
Gushue and teammates Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker clinched a playoff spot as early as possible in the 12-team men's division at the Players on Wednesday morning. They did with an 8-3 win over Edmonton's Brendan Bottcher, who had defeated Gushue in the Page playoffs at last month's Brier, ending the St. John's rink's hopes of winning a third straight Canadian men's championship.
The morning win over Bottcher guaranteed Gushue’s will be among the teams to advance to sudden-death playoffs at the Players, which is being conducted at the Ryerson University's Mattamy Athletic Centre, formerly Maple Leaf Gardens.
Gushue and Co. dd hit a bump in the road with an 8-6 loss to Brad Jacobs Northern Ontario foursome on Wednesday evening, a game that saw Jacobs score four in the fifth end. Still, Gushue joins Jacobs (4-0) as the only skips whose teams are absolutely guaranteed playoff spots heading into the final draws of the preliminary round today, when the St. John’s rink faces Matt Dunstone of Manitoba.
Teams are split into two pools for round-robin play, with the best eight overall qualifying for the weekend playoffs.
The Players’ Championship is the sixth event and fourth major of the 2018-19 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling tour. A combined purse of $300,000 is up for grabs, with the winning teams each collecting $30,000.
Also to be decided is the season-long race for the Pinty's Cup. Gushue entered this week with the lead on the men's side, just ahead of reigning Brier champion Kevin Koe of Alberta.