VICTORIA — Brad Gushue is through to the semifinals of the Elite 10 after pitching a perfect game Friday night in his final round robin match against John Epping.
Gushue, of St. John’s, N.L., kept it 100 as he earned a 4 & 3 victory to finish the preliminary round with a 4-0 record.
“They were generous,” Gushue said with a laugh after the game. “In all honesty, I played pretty well. I thought our team played very well. It was definitely our best game of the four we’ve played so far. It looked like John struggled with the ice a little bit and struggled with his rocks. Fortunately for us we were able to take advantage of it.”
The four-time Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling champion Gushue drew for a deuce to take the first end and stole in the second and third ends when Epping came up light on his final shots.
"It looked like he threw a couple good rocks and they curled early on him and ended coming up light. I’m not sure how hard he threw them but it didn’t look natural, I guess," Gushue said. "There must have been something going on because John is one of the best players in the world. He missed some shots that he makes for fun. We were obviously on the benefit side of that. Looking at our team, I thought we played well, I thought it was a good game, and hopefully something to build on for tomorrow night."
Epping struggled again in the fourth end and faced four counters with his last, but made a raise to promote another one of his own stones for shot to count one and get the push.
Gushue continued to throw lights out to win the fifth end and ice the game.
It was the first meeting between the teams since Epping defeated Gushue to capture the Meridian Canadian Open title in December. Coincidentally, the Toronto native Epping threw a perfect 100 percent in the final to earn his third career Pinty's Grand Slam of Curling title.
Both teams had already advanced to the playoffs with no tiebreaker draw required in the match play event. Teams compete to win the most ends per game by either scoring two or more points with the hammer or stealing at least one point without the hammer.
Gushue also scored a win earlier Friday over Rachel Homan, who made history this week as her team became the first women's rink to compete in a Grand Slam men's invitational since Sportsnet acquired the series in 2012.
Although Gushue came out on top, there was some nervousness as Homan opened the game stealing the first end.
"It was a little bit stressful especially with the way we started out. We played a perfect end, she made a great shot and then I missed and gave up a steal. All of sudden you’re behind the 8-ball and you know what everybody is talking about and hoping for," Gushue said. "I thought we played a pretty decent game. Mark played spectacular. He played 100 percent in that game and it was a legitimate 100. It was a good day for us. Two wins to get right to the semifinals is definitely nice not having to get through the quarters. Hopefully get some good rest and be ready."
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Meanwhile, Winnipeg's Mike McEwen earned a 3 & 2 victory over Brendan Bottcher of Edmonton. McEwen advanced with a 3-1 record while Bottcher finished winless.
Winnipeg's Reid Carruthers punched out a counter to win the final end and get the 1-up victory over Charley Thomas of Calgary. Carruthers advanced straight to the semifinals as the No. 2 seed.
McEwen will play Saskatoon's Steve Laycock in Saturday afternoon's quarterfinals (with the winner facing Gushue) while Epping meets recently crowned Brier champion Kevin Koe of Calgary (winner plays Carruthers).
On top of the match play format, the Elite 10 also added a few new rules this season. Players cannot make tick shots to guards on the centre line during the first five rocks, sweepers cannot use stopwatches, and teams are restricted to two sweeper brushes and one skip brush.
NOTES: The Elite 10 runs through to Sunday at the Q Centre at West Shore Parks & Recreation.