YORKTON, Sask. — Brad Gushue was almost at a loss for words when asked to describe his final shot to defeat Steve Laycock and win the Canadian Open championship.
In this case, a simple “wow” will do.
Gushue nailed a clutch final shot to score two in the last end and lift his St. John’s, N.L., rink to a 6-5 victory over Laycock and claim his third career Grand Slam title and second this season after capturing the Masters last month.
“I’ve won a couple Slams, I’ve won some World Curling Tour events and obviously the Olympics and the (Canadian Olympic) trials but the excitement after that last shot, with the exception of probably the trials, that was probably the most excited I’ve gotten after a curling shot,” Gushue said. “It just didn’t feel like we deserved a win but we had a shot to win and it was a really, really tough shot and to pull it off and for the guys to sweep it in as perfectly as they did, wow, it was pretty cool.”
“It’s unbelievable, not in my wildest dreams would I think we would win two of the first three (Grand Slams) we’ve played together,” added third Mark Nichols, who rejoined Team Gushue during the off-season. “The scary thing is we’re probably not playing as well as we can as a team, as a total four-man unit. There are lots of things we can improve upon but this feels wonderful right now.”
Gushue held the hammer coming home trailing 5-4 and seemed to be in trouble when Nichols attempted to run back one of his own rocks and knock out Laycock’s shot stone but he missed and opened up enough room for Laycock to lie three with his first throw. Gushue made a key double takeout to sit right on the button with his first shot.
Laycock placed his final rock in the four-foot and froze right on top, however, Gushue decided to go for two — and the win — by easing his last rock and front-enders Geoff Walker and Brett Gallant were able to sweep it to the lid for second shot to get the deuce.
“You have some people making great shots to beat you to win a championship and eventually you’re going to do the same thing,” Gushue said. “This makes up for one of the two we hadn’t made last year and that’s got to definitely be a little bit bitter for Steve and his team because I felt they outplayed us and they probably deserved to win but curling has that nature that one or two shots can win a game and fortunately for us it was those last two that we made on our last stones.”
Yorkton-born Laycock, competing in his first career Grand Slam final, played a strong game and took out Gushue’s shot stone that ran back to knock another out of the rings to get a 2-0 lead in the first. Gushue matched with a deuce of his own in the second. Laycock was forced to settle for a single in the third but stole one in the fourth to retake the two-point lead.
Gushue scored another pair in five to tie it 4-4. Laycock blanked the sixth and settled for one in seven.
At the past six Grand Slam tournaments, Gushue has made it to four finals and one semifinal. Nichols moved back to Newfoundland from Manitoba over the summer, reuniting with 2006 Olympic gold medal teammate Gushue. The back-end duo also won the National in 2010.
“Just give (Brad) the chance to win you the game and that’s what we said to each other at the end of the seventh end: let’s give Brad a shot to win, no matter how hard it is, I like our chances,” Nichols said. “That’s the hardest shot I’ve ever seen this year and to draw to the side of the sheet to the side of the button that we hadn’t played on all game, I don’t want anyone other than Brad throwing that shot.”
It was a grind of a tournament as Gushue took the long road through the C-side of the tournament and the semifinal match Saturday against Calgary’s Kevin Koe was his third game of the day after beating Brier-bound John Morris’ Team Canada squad to reach the playoffs and avenging a B-qualifier loss to reigning Olympic champion Brad Jacobs in the quarterfinals. Team Gushue remained cool, calm and collected throughout all three back-against-the-wall games versus three of the elite teams in the world.
“I struggled earlier this week but yesterday morning I found the feel and it never left,” Gushue said. “I felt like I could put the rock wherever I wanted to out there yesterday and today and generally I feel like that on (ice maker) Mark Shurek’s ice because it’s so good and when you have that amount of confidence it’s easy to have success. Unfortunately I don’t have that confidence everywhere I play, but I wish I did. The ice is good and if you throw the rock well, you’re going to make some shots.”
“When you go Jacobs, Koe and Laycock to win an event and we didn’t lead at any point in time until the last end so it just shows what this team is about and we grind it out until the end,” Nichols added. “There’s no quit in this team.”