Sweeting steals to successfully defend GSOC Tour Challenge title

REGINA — Val Sweeting didn’t let an early deficit in the Tour Challenge Tier 1 women’s final Sunday get her Edmonton-based team down.

After giving up a steal of three in the first, Sweeting rallied in the second half and stole a point in the eighth to edge Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg 6-5 and successfully defend the title.

The team of Sweeting, third Lori Olson-Johns, second Dana Ferguson and lead Rachel Brown posted a perfect 7-0 record through the first tournament of the 2017-18 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season to earn $20,000 and a berth in the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup.

“It’s really exciting and to get that berth in the Champions Cup early is always a bit of a relief,” Sweeting said. “You don’t know when you’re going to be back in the final, so you want to take advantage. It was a great event. We were excited to play here in Regina and it was a good time.”

The now three-time Pinty’s GSOC title winner Sweeting defeated Michelle Englot’s Winnipeg-based team in last year’s final in Cranbrook, B.C.

“I’m just as equally excited to win both of them,” Sweeting said. “I think last year coming off a 0-4 start at the Masters we were really happy to turn things around. This year it’s our first event and nice to start off on a good note. Anytime is just as exciting, so they’re both special in their own way.”

Sweeting opened with the hammer but got off to a slow start falling into big trouble in the first and crashed on a guard with her last to give up a steal of three. Her team struggled again in the second and looked to be heavy on the draw with her last while facing four, but caught the shot rock and stopped at the back of the four-foot circle to count for a single.

Hasselborg made a double takeout to settle for a point in three and reclaim the three-point advantage.

Sweeting scored another single in the fourth to trail 4-2 at the break and shook off those early woes to surge in the second half.

A great cross-house double by Sweeting to lie four counters in the fifth forced Hasselborg to draw for one. Sweeting got the hammer back in six and erased the deficit for good with a double to score three and tie it 5-5.

Hasselborg blanked seven to retain the hammer coming home in eight. With Sweeting sitting shot rock under cover, Hasselborg was just a tad wide on her last to give up the steal.

Sweeting credits her team for never giving up and charging forward rather than letting their early woes bring them down.

“We didn’t feel that far off,” Sweeting said. “We just rubbed a guard or just missed a runback. We felt we were really close and I think that’s what helped. We didn’t get down on ourselves then we just started making them and I think the double in five, I said, ‘Finally we made one.’

“The girls just stuck with it and didn’t get down on ourselves and we easily could have in that situation, so I’m really proud of the team that we didn’t do that. We just plugged away, got a break in six when she left that double and capitalized and then just tried to leave her the hardest shot possible in eight and fortunately it worked out. I thought it was a really good week for the team and we rallied a lot for each other and lots of good things to carry forward. Lots to learn too so we don’t put ourselves in that situation but lots of positives.”

Hasselborg lost her first game on the opening night of the tournament Tuesday to Englot but brushed that off to win five straight to reach the final.

The team of Hasselborg, third Sara McManus, second Agnes Knochenhauer and lead Sofia Mabergs were competing in their second career Pinty’s GSOC final after finishing runner-up to Ottawa’s Team Rachel Homan in the Humpty’s Champions Cup to wrap up last season.

Meanwhile, Winnipeg’s Kerri Einarson captured the Tier 2 title for the second time in three seasons with a 7-4 victory over Calgary’s Chelsea Carey.

Carey opened with the hammer, but gave up a steal in the second and settled for a single in the third to tie it 1-1. It was a missed opportunity for Einarson in the fourth as she had a draw for two but was thick on a guard and only got one.

The 2016 Scotties Tournament of Hearts winner Carey took two in the fifth to grab a 3-2 lead.

Einarson made a game-changing double raise in the sixth to count three and pull back ahead 5-3.

Carey was forced to hit and stick for a single in seven and Einarson sealed the deal with an open hit in eight.

The team of Einarson, third Selena Kaatz, second Liz Fyfe and lead Kristin MacCuish — who also won the inaugural Tour Challenge Tier 2 title in 2015 — join the elite at the following Pinty’s GSOC event, the Masters, running Oct. 24-29 in Lloydminster, Sask., with airfare and accommodations covered.

Carey is supported by third Cathy Overton-Clapham, second Jocelyn Peterman and lead Laine Peters.

Earlier Sunday, Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., earned his eighth career Pinty’s GSOC title cruising past Norway’s Steffen Walstad 9-1 in six ends during the Tier 1 men’s final. Jason Gunnlaugson topped William Lyburn 8-7 in the Tier 2 men’s final.