Epping throws perfect game to win Canadian Open

Tim March, Patrick Janssen, Mat Camm and John Epping with the Canadian Open trophy in Yorkton, Sask. (Anil Mungal)

YORKTON, Sask. — Toronto’s John Epping believed he would have to shoot lights out in order to beat Brad Gushue.

Mission accomplished.

Epping kept it 100 percent shooting an unreal perfect score to win his third career Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title at the Meridian Canadian Open Sunday defeating the defending champion 7-4 in seven ends.

“That’s exactly what you have to do against Brad,” Epping said with a smile. “They’re such a good team you have to make the big ones. If not, the game would have been a lot closer. Again, fortunate enough to make those and it all went our way.”

Team Epping cashed in a cool $25,000 finishing the Meridian Canadian Open with an unblemished 6-0 record.

“It feels unbelievable,” Epping said. “It’s just so tough to win a Grand Slam. All the top teams in the world and to beat three or four of them this week all in a row, it’s just so hard to do. That’s what I think makes it so rewarding at the end of the day.”

While it’s Grand Slam No. 3 for the skip, it’s the first for third Mat Camm, second Patrick Janssen, and lead Tim March.

“It’s awesome, an unbelievable feeling,” Janssen said. “We’ve been working hard all season and it’s finally starting clicking for us so it’s great to finally get the first one.”

Epping was playing in his first Grand Slam final since winning the 2012 Players’ Championship and had gone through several lineup tweaks and changes, even cleaning house in 2014, but has found something special with this crew.

“It’s been a great fit so far. It’s taken a bit of time to come together but we knew it was going to,” Epping said. “We really believed in it and believed this team would win something big and do well. We just seem to peak and it’s come together. It’s three guys I’m just so happy to win a Slam with and it’s their first Slam. It’s just so special.”

Team Epping struggled earlier in the season — missing the playoffs at the Tour Challenge and the Masters — but are on a roll right now making the semifinals at the National and taking the title here. Janssen believes perseverance has been the key to their success.

“I think we’ve just been working hard together constantly on the ice working on all the little things,” Janssen said. “That’s finally starting clicking and got us here.”

Gushue opened with the hammer but Epping forced the four-time Grand Slam champion and 2006 Olympic gold medallist to a single in the first.

Epping scored two in the second, held Gushue to one point in three, and was cooking in the fourth end making a sizzling angle raise takeout for another deuce.

After Gushue was only able to take a single in five, Epping continued to make scorching shots scoring a three-pointer like Steph Curry in the sixth for a four-point cushion.

“It makes it really easy, just hop in his backpack and watch him go,” Janssen said. “It’s fun.”

Gushue was limited to another single in seven and shook hands.

The team of Gushue, third Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant and lead Geoff Walker continue to lead the Rogers Grand Slam Cup overall standings with 35 points, four points up on Tour Challenge winner Kevin Koe of Calgary. Team Gushue won the National last month in Oshawa, Ont., and also finished runner-up at their home-province Tour Challenge event in Paradise, N.L., to open the Pinty’s GSOC season in September.

Epping earned a Christmas gift as the Canadian Open victory clinched him a spot in the season-ending Champions Cup, April 26 to May 1, 2016. Teams must win a title during the year in order to qualify and Epping was thankful for the present.

“We definitely needed to win a Slam to get in so I can’t wait,” Epping said. “It has just put us into everything: the Elite 10, the Players’ Championship, everything. It’s going to be an awesome Christmas.”

The Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season resumes with the Elite 10 men’s invitational, running March 17-20, 2016, in Victoria, B.C. Both men’s and women’s fields return to Toronto for the Players’ Championship, April 12-17, 2016.