CALGARY — The 2016-17 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season went out with a bang at the Humpty’s Champions Cup.
With nothing but a four-month summer break ahead, the world’s best emptied their arsenal during the year-ending tournament at WinSport Arena. Amidst a snowboarding halfpipe, bobsleigh track and skip jumps, Canada Olympic Park provided the perfect backdrop to cap the season and provide a bit of the atmosphere teams will be looking to replicate with the 2018 Winter Games on the horizon.
Ottawa’s Rachel Homan needed to make a raise for two with the last rock of the women’s final to edge Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg 5-4 and Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., outduelled Calgary’s own Kevin Koe 6-2 to take the men’s title in a heavyweight tilt.
Homan, Jacobs and more highlight our takeaways from the Humpty’s Champions Cup.
1st End: Homan’s season of riches gets richer with super spare
It was a dream year already for Team Homan before the Humpty’s Champions Cup even started. Homan’s undefeated 13-0 run at the world championship is the stuff of legends and to end the season winning her sixth career Pinty’s GSOC title was the icing on the cake and the cherry on top.
Hasselborg left Homan an opening with the final rock of the championship game and not content to settle for an extra end, she pounced to the score the winner.
“It’s definitely not the shot you visualize to win the Champions Cup,” Homan said. “But we figured out the line, it was a great team shot, great line call and swept really well.”
Homan posted a 6-1 overall record brushing off a loss early in the week to Val Sweeting with victories over then-defending champ Jennifer Jones in the quarterfinals and Alina Paetz in the semifinals. The 5-0 shutout over Paetz was pure thievery as Homan never held the hammer once and put the pressure on to steal all five points.
The trio of Homan, third Emma Miskew and lead Lisa Weagle welcomed super spare Sarah Wilkes into the fold as second Joanne Courtney was busy competing for Canada with Reid Carruthers at the world mixed doubles championship.
Wilkes, an Alberta provincial champ with Team Kleibrink, was a little nervous at first having the tough task of filling in for Courtney and fitting in with the team -- her only prior experience was sweeping Miskew's rocks during the Hot Shots at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts -- but when it was all over she had claimed her first title in the series.
Meanwhile, Courtney grabbed silver and clinched Canada a spot in mixed doubles for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Two world medals in one year is an amazing achievement for Courtney.
2nd End: Jacobs bounces back big time
From not qualifying for entry to the Humpty’s Champions Cup one year to winning it the next, it’s been quite the season of redemption for Team Jacobs.
The Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., crew of Jacobs, Ryan Fry, E.J. Harnden and Ryan Harnden will be the first to say their 2015-16 campaign was a huge disappointment as they didn’t win a single tour event. As a result they didn’t receive an invite to the inaugural Humpty’s Champions Cup despite their top-five ranking in the world. Team Jacobs captured a tour title in Saskatoon in September and also took the Boost National in December in their hometown, thus guaranteeing a spot this time around.
Jacobs was in the zone right from the start of the Humpty’s Champions Cup defeating Team Morris 7-2 in a game they totally dominated with the skip scoring 100 percent in the stats. They also appeared loose and relaxed. After Fry made an incredible takeout and the crowd roared, he wondered out loud if his shot was really that good. E.J. Harnden jokingly replied he’d never be able to make another as great as that one again.
Duelling deuces opened the final and Jacobs potted another pair to lead 4-2 at the break. Koe couldn’t quite keep up the pace and that’s when Jacobs capitalized in the fifth end with a chilly freeze that set up a steal.
Another swipe in seven led to handshakes and a third Pinty’s GSOC title for Jacobs. To be able to play in the event, win it and head into the off-season on a high note was the total package.
“You never want to not qualify for a Slam and unfortunately last year we weren’t able to win an event to get into the Champions Cup,” E.J. Harnden said. “So for us to be able to come here for the first time, the best field in the world and win is awesome. We wanted to win not only because we wanted to win the last event of the year, but it also gives us some more confidence in Slam finals, to get the job done, and I think we did that here today.”
3rd End: Homan, Jacobs making plans for 2018
The Pinty's GSOC hasn’t announced where next year’s Champions Cup will be yet, but we can already guarantee Homan and Jacobs will be there.
Homan and Jacobs not only earned $40,000 each for their victories, they also received invites back for a chance to defend the titles.
“Any time you know you’re automatically going to be in a Grand Slam event so far in advance is a nice reassuring feeling,” E.J. Harnden said. “We’re extremely excited to be able to come back wherever it is. We just love playing in the Grand Slam. We know how much it’s done for the sport of curling, we appreciate it, and any time we get to play in one we definitely want to be there.”
4th End: A wizard did it
Just when you thought the season was over, Koe went and made the shot of the season during the semifinals against Niklas Edin of Sweden.
Trailing by one with the hammer in the final end, Koe had to make a run double to keep his season alive for one more day. Spoiler alert: he made it.
5th End: Hasselborg takes giant leap in 2016-17
The 2016-17 season saw a handful of first-time women’s champions -- Allison Flaxey, Kerri Einarson and Casey Scheidegger -- but it’s arguably Anna Hasselborg who had the best breakout season of the bunch.
Hasselborg had only played in one elite-level GSOC event prior to this season and seemingly came out of nowhere to finish with four semifinal finishes and one runner-up result in the six women’s events this year.
The Swedish team of Hasselborg, Sara McManus, Agnes Knochenhauer and Sofia Mabergs put in the hard work to get to this point and it’s only a matter of time until they make that next step to a Grand Slam championship.
6th End: Sinclair shines
Jamie Sinclair was no GSOC rookie at the Humpty’s Champions Cup, but it was her first in the series skipping the team of Alex Carlson, Vicky Persinger and Monica Walker. The American squad came together at the start of the season and although it was a “rebuilding” year, it was a quick build as they captured the U.S. national championship to earn a berth to the season-ender.
Sinclair qualified for the playoffs in an elite-level GSOC tournament for the first time reaching the quarterfinals following a clutch final shot to knock out Einarson in a tiebreaker.
Sinclair earned more points at the Humpty’s Champions Cup than she had at any event during the season, including nationals, and like Team Hasselborg, the U.S. squad appears poised to move up to the top.
7th End: Edin makes history
When Edin formed a new team in 2014 ahead of the Olympic cycle, one of his goals was to get to No. 1 on the World Curling Tour’s Order of Merit. Only Canadian teams held the top spot in the history of the WCT, so it may have seemed like a lofty goal.
Edin’s stellar season winning three Pinty’s GSOC titles helped him lead the year-to-date standings and for the first time ever he will start 2017-18 at No. 1 on the OOM to enter the record books.
That’s one goal down for Edin and it surely sends a message to the hundreds of teams below on the list heading into an Olympic year.
8th End: See you in September
The Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling returns for 2017-18 with the Tour Challenge running Sept. 5-10 at the Co-operators Centre -- Evraz Place in Regina.
Get a jump start on next season as full-event and weekend passes are already available online at Ticketmaster.ca or by calling 1-855-985-5000.