Brad Gushue and his teammates gave themselves a day off with a win over an arch-rival Thursday in the Meridian Canadian Open, the Pinty Grand Slam of Curling event being played this week in Yorkton, Sask.
Gushue and rinkmates Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker are 3-0 in the triple knockout event; that record includes an 8-6 win over Kevin Koe of Calgary on Thursday, a result that moves the St. John’s rink directly into the quarter-finals.
The victory gave Gushue one of two qualifying berths from the A section of the event. The other went to world No. 1 Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., who defeated young American Korey Dropkin 5-3.
Gushue and Jacobs will now wait as the other quarter-finalists are determined today.
A loss drops a team to the B section, from where three teams advance to the playoffs, which begin Saturday. A second loss sends a team to the C section,which will eventually produce the other three quarter-final rinks.
A third loss eliminates a team entirely.
That Gushue is into the playoffs isn’t surprising. His team routinely makes it to at least the quarter-final round in Grand Slam events. But it’s been a while since he has won a Slam. He came close earlier this season, finishing as runner-up in both the Masters and Tour Challenge, but his rink hasn’t won on the Grand Slam tour since September of 2018.
He’s given himself another good chance this week, defeating Jason Gunnlaugson of Winnipeg and Scotland’s Ross Paterson prior to Thursday’s victory over Koe, who won the Brier Canadian men’s championship last year, dethroning Gushue, who had won the Brier the previous two years.
On Thursday, Gushue and Koe traded scores of two for six ends, leaving the teams tied 6-6 heading into the seventh end.
There, Gushue was forced into a single, but Koe couldn’t take advantage of last-rock advantage in eighth and final end. Instead, he was forced into a final shot he couldn’t make, leaving Gushue with a steal and the win.
The Canadian Open is the fourth event and third major of the 2019-20 Grand Slam of Curling season. It sees 32 of the world's top teams — 16 men’s and 16 women’s — chasing a $300,000 total purse, split equally between the men’s and women’s divisions. Winners each receive S35,000 along with berths in the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup.
After this week, the next Grand Slam event won’t be until April, when teams gather for the the Players’ Championship in Toronto. In the interim, teams will be busy in provincial and perhaps national and international championships. For example, Gushue will be one of nine teams entered in the Tankard Newfoundland and Labrador men’s championship set to begin Jan. 28 at the Re/Max Centre in St. John’s.
It will mark the first Tankard for the Gushue since 2017. As reigning national champion, he had earned direct berths in the 2018 and 2019 Briers as Team Canada, meaning he didn’t have to advance to the Brier through the provincial competition.