OLDS, Alta. — Brad Gushue finished the latest chapter of his storied curling career winning his 13th career Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling men’s championship.
Gushue and his crew from St. John’s, N.L., upended Kevin Koe’s Calgary club 8-5 to capture the season-ending KIOTI Tractor Champions Cup men’s title Sunday at the Olds Sportsplex.
“It feels great,” Gushue said. “It’s a great way to cap off what’s been a pretty incredible season for us. We played extremely well, we’ve had a lot of big wins, some disappointments, but those disappointments make the wins even more satisfying.”
It not only ended an amazing season for the team that represented Canada twice — earning bronze at the Winter Olympic Games and silver at the world championship — but it was also the last event for Gushue, third Mark Nichols and lead Geoff Walker with second Brett Gallant, who is moving to Alberta ahead of next season and joining Brendan Bottcher.
Team Gushue won the 2014 Masters in their first GSOC tournament altogether and bookended their tenure with a 12th. The foursome also won an Olympic bronze medal, gold and two silver medals at the world championship plus four Brier titles over an incredible era.
“Really for us, we just wanted to cap this run off together with Brett with a win,” Gushue said. “We felt it was a kind of a deserving way to end with the amount of success we’ve had over the last eight years and I’m glad we were able to do it. The ice was incredible this week. The crowd was incredible. It was a wonderful Grand Slam event.”
Gushue banked $25,000 from the combined $210,000 prize purse while Koe, third John Morris, second B.J. Neufeld and lead Ben Hebert cashed in $17,000.
The KIOTI Tractor Champions Cup was also the finale for Team Koe. Morris is stepping back from men’s curling, Neufeld is off to play with Matt Dunstone and Hebert is linking up with Gallant on the new Team Bottcher. Koe’s new team features third Tyler Tardi, second Brad Thiessen and lead Karrick Martin.
Team Koe started off strong, holding the hammer in the first end as Morris made a pair of perfect double raises and the skip himself was sharp as well with a couple of soft touches to score a deuce.
Koe began to show signs he was human after all in the second, stuffing on a slash double takeout attempt, allowing Gushue to ease his last into the eight-foot circle for the tying two points.
How the turns table as thievery was the story for Gushue to build a commanding six-point advantage off steals in three consecutive ends.
Koe rolled deep to the back of the house on his first skip stone in three and Gushue bit the top of the button buried to count at least a couple of counters with a potential third also in the mix. That put Koe in damage control mode — and he conceded a single steal — but things went from bad to worse in the fourth as his runback attempt over-curled and ran his guard off the line to miss the target and give up a critical steal of three to fall behind 6-2.
Gushue didn’t ease off the pressure valve and sat two counters in the fifth to force Koe into attempting a long angle raise that whiffed on both to make it 8-2.
There were some signs of life still in the game in the sixth end as Gushue jammed his last and Koe punched it out for three points to cut the deficit in half 8-5.
Nichols cleaned up the house for Team Gushue in the seventh end with a double takeout to the delight of the crowd. Even though the tournament took place in Koe’s backyard up the road from Calgary, several fans were waving Newfoundland flags and broke out into “Let’s go, Gu-shue” chants. Of course, it was a pro-Koe crowd too, with chants of “Koe, Koe, Koe, oy, oy, oy.”
There was nowhere for Koe to hide, however, and he cleared the house with a double takeout then conceded before Gushue could throw his last rock.
“I felt like we applied pressure the whole game,” said Gushue, whose team outshot the Koe foursome 90 per cent to 79 per cent. “Even the first end, John made two double raises that turned it around. It looked like we had a steal set up and then all of a sudden they could score four if I don’t make a good one on my last.
“With the exception of maybe in the third end when we got into a little bit of trouble, I felt like we controlled the game. I felt like we outplayed them and it was good. We got a few misses, which is nice and made it a little easier than I thought it would be.”
Following Team Gushue’s win, Team Kerri Einarson of Gimli, Man., defeated South Korea’s Team Eun-Jin Gim to win the women’s tournament and secure Einarson’s fourth career title in the series.
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.