Brad Gushue and his St, John’s rink returned to full strength at the Players Championship Thursday and it was reflected in the standings as the Canadian men’s champions improved to 3-1 at the Grand Slam of Curling event.
The Gushue rink split their first two games Wednesday using just three players, Second Brett Gallant was in Prince Edward Island to attend the funeral of his maternal grandfather, who had died just prior to last week’s world men’s curling championship.
As a result, lead Geoff Walker and third Mark Nichols both found themselves throwing extra stones Wednesday in an 8-4 win over Brendan Bocchter and 10-8 loss to Kevin Koe.
But on Thursday, with Gallant back in the lineup, Gushue and Co. registered a 7-2 win over Olympic gold medallist John Shuster of the United States and followed up with a 5-4 win over John Epping of Toronto.
“It’s great because the first two games we were not scrambling but you’re not used to playing with three guys,” Nichols old Jonathan Brazeau of grandslamofcurling.com “Having Brett out there as an extra set of eyes only makes us better.”
In the win over Epping, Gushue stole one in the final end for the victory. Epping had a draw for the winning point with his last rock, but was a tad heavy, with Nichols sweeping behind the tee-line to make sure the stone was outcounted by one belonging to the St. John’s crew.
Gushue has one preliminary-round game remaining today, against Manitoba’s Reid Carruthers, a match that pretty much will be preparation for weekend playoffs. Eight of the 12 teams advance to quarter-finals.