VICTORIA — Elite X marks the spot.
Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., grabbed a piece of the button during the draw-to-the-button shootout to edge Winnipeg’s Reid Carruthers for the Elite 10 title Sunday.
It’s Gushue’s fifth career Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title and his fourth in the past two seasons with Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant, and Geoff Walker.
Team Gushue thrive under the high-pressure environment of the Grand Slams with consistency overall being key for the crew as they have not only qualified for the playoffs at all five Pinty’s GSOC events this season, they’ve reached the final in four of them as well. Gushue also topped Carruthers to win the National in November.
The Elite 10 couldn’t have come at a better time for Gushue. Following a heartbreaking runner-up finish at the Brier, getting back on the ice — back to the familiar Grand Slam setting — proved to be the perfect medicine to get back on track as they posted a perfect 6-0 record through the event.
The wins weren’t always easy — “stressful,” said Gushue following the shootout semifinals and final wins — but at the end of the four-day tournament Team Gushue were the last ones standing with a cool $27,500 in their pockets.
A few more takeaways kick off this week’s Eight Ends:
1st End: Gushue sets sights on Players’ Championship
Next up for the Pinty’s GSOC series is the sixth event of the season being held in the 6ix with Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto hosting the Players’ Championship for the third time in four years.
The Players’ Championship has been the one Grand Slam major that has eluded Gushue so far. Completing the career Grand Slam would move Gushue into exclusive company with Kevin Martin, Glenn Howard, Wayne Middaugh, and Jeff Stoughton as the only skips to accomplish the feat.
Gushue is also leading in the chase for the Rogers Grand Slam Cup, awarded to the overall season points leader following the conclusion of the Players’ Championship (note: no points were awarded at the Elite 10). It’s another trophy Gushue has yet to win and carries a $75,000 bonus prize. That’s a nice chunk of change that would cap an impressive GSOC season.
“We’re definitely going to be looking to recharge over the next couple weeks and make sure we come in motivated,” Gushue said. “I don’t think our motivation was quite where it was this week because last week was so emotionally draining, but we want to make sure we’re ready for that. I think a week or two off and then really gear up leading into that, I think hopefully we could have a good performance.
“It’s one that I would love to win for sure. It’s the only one I haven’t won and obviously if we did win it would guarantee us the Rogers Grand Slam Cup as well, which is a nice bonus.”
2nd End: Carruthers’s time will come
It was tough to see Team Carruthers lose in the Elite 10 final after charging back from a two-end deficit to make it all square and then force a push in the eighth end to require the shootout.
Carruthers rolled heavy with his shootout attempt ending at the back of the eight-foot circle.
Coincidentally, Carruthers’s first game of the Elite 10 was against Gushue and that too went into a shootout with Gushue coming out on top. From there Team Carruthers went on a roll winning three consecutive games to get the No. 2 seed and a bye to the semifinals.
They faced recently crowned Brier champ Kevin Koe and his Calgary crew in the semis and punched their ticket to the final in another shootout.
The team of Carruthers, Braeden Moskowy, Derek Samagalski, and lead Colin Hodgson continue to make leaps in just their second season all together and are certainly due to win a Grand Slam sooner rather than later.
3rd End: Homan breaks through curling’s gender barrier
It was a historic week all around for Rachel Homan and her Ottawa team.
Homan, third Emma Miskew, second Joanne Courtney, and lead Lisa Weagle not only were the first women’s team to play in a men’s Grand Slam invitational since Sportsnet acquired the series in 2012, they also became the first women’s team to beat a high-ranked men’s team in a Grand Slam when they defeated Charley Thomas’s Calgary-based rink Friday morning.
While Team Homan did not qualify for the playoffs and finished with a 1-3 record, they held their own in their round-robin games against the two finalists, Carruthers and Gushue, and even got on the board first in both matches.
Homan has won three consecutive women’s Grand Slam titles taking the Masters, National, and Canadian Open, and now also shifts her focus to the Players’ Championship — and again at the record books — with a chance of becoming the first men’s or women’s curler to sweep all four majors in a single season.
Read our full feature on Team Homan’s historic week by clicking here.
4th End: Rules
On top of the match play format, a few new rules were tested at the Elite 10. Tick shots were not allowed on guards sitting on the centre line in the free guard zone during the first five rocks of play, sweepers couldn’t use stopwatches, and teams were restricted to two sweeper brushes and one skip brush for the duration of the event.
Gushue praised the latter rule change and hopes it’ll be in place at the next two Pinty’s GSOC events.
“I really think it’s a great move for the game and I certainly hope we do it at the Players’ Championship and the Champions Cup,” Gushue said. “I think it puts it back on throwing the right weight with the broom. We’ve missed more shots this week than we missed all year, to be honest, and we won. I think that’s the same across every sheet. I don’t think misses are that bad for curling.
“I think the way it was, the first part of the Brier, guys curling 92 or 94 percent. It almost gets a little bit boring when oh he’s going to make that. I think it’s what we need to do and the direction that the game needs to go is to be more like it was here this week.”
Contrary to belief, the draw-to-the-button shootout was not a new rule and was actually in place for the inaugural Elite 10 last year, it’s just that none of the games required an extra end to determine the winner. It certainly added an extra level of drama for the games, especially the thrilling semifinals and the final.
Gushue defeated Saskatoon’s Steve Laycock to the pin by half an inch (!) during the semis to advance.
5th End: John Morris on the mend
Team Pat Simmons third John Morris announced last Wednesday he would miss the rest of the season to undergo hernia repair surgery. The three-time Brier champ and 2010 Olympic gold medallist will also have treatments for a hip problem.
The Calgary-based team have one more big event on their schedule, the Champions Cup at the end of April. With the season-ending Pinty’s GSOC tournament being held in Sherwood Park, Alta., they should be able to compete with a super spare (let the speculation begin on who that will be).
6th End: Women’s worlds in full swing
The women’s world curling championship is going down in Swift Current, Sask., with Canada’s own Chelsea Carey running out of the gate to a 3-1 record.
The wins haven’t been exactly smooth — a couple late steals swiped the game from the Swiss and a steal of four in the sixth end iced a 10-2 win over the U.S. — which caught up to Canada on Monday falling 6-3 to Russia, skipped by Anna Sidorova.
Canada still has games against Sweden (skipped by Margaretha Sigfridsson) and Scotland (skipped by Eve Muirhead) and will not be able to count on lucky breaks when facing those two contenders.
7th End: U of A looking to repeat
The CIS University Championships are underway in Kelowna, B.C. The University of Alberta’s Golden Bears, skipped by Thomas Scoffin, and Pandas, skipped by Kelsey Rocque, are the defending champions and both look to make it back-to-back title wins.
Last year’s finalist skips Aaron Squires (Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks) and Corryn Brown (Thompson Rivers WolfPack) also return with their teams and should contend as well.
8th End: Next up for the GSOC
Tickets are available for the Players’ Championship, running April 12-17, click here for details.