You might say it’s been a fair 2018-19 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season for Brad Gushue and teammates, and if so, the St. John’s rink maintained that grade this past week in Toronto, where it lost out in the quarter-final round of the Players Championship.
It continued a string that has seen Gushue, Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker make it to the playoffs in all six Grand Slam events to date. However, after winning the season-opening Princess Auto Elite 10, Gushue and Co. haven’t made it to a Grand Slam final, with one semifinal and four quarter-final finishes.
In Toronto, the Gushue rink fashioned a 4-1 preliminary-round record, tied for best among the 12 teams in the men’s division. But the playoffs were sudden death, and that’s what happened Saturday, in a 7-6 setback to Peter de Cruz’s Swiss foursome, one of the teams Gushue had defeated in preliminary play.
Brendan Bottcher, who had lost 8-3 to Gushue in a preliminary draw, eventually claimed the Players Championship title, defeating reigning Canadian men’s champion and fellow Albertan Kevin Koe 6-1 in Sunday’s final.
Koe had the consolation of winning the season-long Pinty’s Cup points race and the $75,000 that comes with it. Gushue, who had held the Pinty’s Cup leading heading into Toronto, finished third in the points standing, taking home $25,000 as a result.
The Gushue rink, which owns an overall 23-11 record in Grand Slam play this season, will have a chance to finish as it started its 2018-19. It is one of 15 entries in the seventh and final event on the Grand Slam schedule, the Champions Cup, which begins April 23 in Saskatoon.
Gushue is the defending champion of the Champions Cup, which features winners of Grand Slam, World Curling Tour and international titles over the season. However, the rink will have to play without Gallant, who will be unavailable as he will be representing Canada at the world mixed doubles championship. Manitoba’s Colton Lott will replace Gallant at second in Saskatoon.