OLDS, Alta. — Kerri Einarson capped off the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season by capturing her fourth career women’s title in the series.
Einarson and her Gimli, Man., club defeated Eun-Ji Gim’s team from South Korea 10-6 during the KIOTI Tractor Champions Cup women’s final Sunday at the Olds Sportsplex.
The team of Einarson, third Val Sweeting, second Shannon Birchard and lead Briane Meilleur earned $25,000 from the $210,000 combined prize purse.
While the end of the Olympic cycle has signaled a flurry of lineup changes, Team Einarson will remain intact for next season, and for good reasons as they also claimed two Princess Auto Players’ Championship titles plus three consecutive Canadian women’s championships during their four years together.
“It definitely wasn’t easy starting off, that’s for sure,” Einarson said while reflecting on the quadrennial. “We’ve put in a lot of work on and off the ice. My teammates have done a lot. They’ve been through a lot of physical and been through a lot of mental work. We work hard at the game and we’re always looking to get better and better.”
Although Team Einarson posted a 3-2 record through pool play, a poor draw-to-the-button shootout score dropped them into a tiebreaker scenario against Team Eun-Jung Kim of South Korea. Einarson clipped Kim 7-4 to qualify for the playoffs then ousted Ottawa’s Team Rachel Homan 5-3 in the quarterfinals and Sweden’s Team Anna Hasselborg 6-4 in the semifinals during a marathon three-draw Saturday with elimination on the line.
“It feels pretty amazing, especially to end the season on a win,” Einarson said. “We played so well all week. We had a couple losses, back-to-back losses, but we never let that get us down. On Saturday, we really battled out there, played three games and I’m beat.”
It might have been the closest draw-to-the-button shootout for the hammer to start a final as Team Gim landed just 0.7 cm away from the pinhole but Team Einarson edged them out finishing 0.1 cm from the dot. That proved to be crucial as Einarson drew for two in the opening end.
“Hammer is so important and that draw to the button is crucial,” Einarson said. “You can tell by how it threw us in a tiebreaker. We just battled through it and it’s tough to keep a lead, that’s for sure. We’ve been there before.”
Einarson drew to the button once more in the second and Gim followed the out-turn path, however, her shooter ran heavy to give up a steal and slip behind 3-0.
Gim, playing in her first GSOC final, was able to get back into it in the third end with a bump for two points to close the gap down to 3-2.
Einarson broke the game open in the fourth end. Gim crashed on her own guard and Einarson capitalized big time with a draw to score four to make it 7-2.
The game was far from though. Gim pulled off the high-pressure in-off shot to the button to score her single point while facing six counters and the intrigue continued into the sixth end. Einarson left Team Gim off of the hook and was light on her last while facing three counters. Although Birchard and Meilleur were on it from the start, they were unable to drag it far enough into the four-foot circle to give up a steal of two that cut the deficit in half 7-5.
Gim closed within one in the seventh as Einarson’s slash double attempt to score two missed the back counter to concede another stolen point.
“Team Gim played really well,” Einarson said. “They started off a little shaky at first but then in the last half of the game they put some pressure on us. Just came short on a draw but we just squeaked it out.”
Einarson looked more like herself in the final frame making a routine double takeout on her first skip stone to sit two stones and lower some of the tension. Gim drew for shot rock into the four-foot circle mostly buried — keyword being mostly as Einarson was still able to punch it out and add three points for insurance.
“We’re very gritty and resilient,” Einarson said. “We just never give up. We just keep making shots and putting pressure on our opponents. I’m very proud of my teammates and they definitely make my job easy.”
The team of Gim, third Min-Ji Kim, second Su-Jin Kim and lead Ye-Eun Seol picked up $15,000 from the purse for finishing runners-up.
Earlier, Brad Gushue and his crew from St. John’s, N.L., upended Kevin Koe’s Calgary club 8-5 in the men’s final. Gushue captured his 13th career GSOC men’s championship and 12th with second Brett Gallant, who now departs the team to play with Brendan Bottcher.
The 2022-23 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling campaign kicks off with the Boost National, Oct. 4-9, at Memorial Gardens in North Bay, Ont.
Full-event passes are now available for all six events for next season, visit thegrandslamofcurling.com/tickets for more information.