OLDS, Alta. — A break from curling can wait for Joanne Courtney.
Team Homan’s lead is playing her final event with the Ottawa club as she plans to take a hiatus from the sport after the season-ending KIOTI Tractor Champions Cup.
Courtney is leaving it all on the ice and was key on the sweep for skip Rachel Homan’s takeout on the last rock of the game Friday night to defeat Cory Christensen’s team from the United States 7-6 and advance to the women’s quarterfinals at the Olds Sportsplex.
It was a must-win game for the 11-time Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling champion Homan, who never led in the game until the dust had settled in the eighth end.
“That feels great,” Courtney said while still trying to catch her breath after the game. “In that spot, you could not be wide, or else it was never coming back and that’s what we live for as sweepers, right? Rachel threw it perfectly. Really, really good effort by our team to stay in the moment, stay with every shot and we’ll play in the quarters tomorrow.”
Deuces were wild to start with the teams alternating pairs of points back and forth through the first half. The streak ended in the fifth end as Christensen’s blank attempt failed with her shooter hanging on at the edge of the 12-foot circle to remain in the rings for a single and a 5-4 lead.
The defending champion, Homan had an opportunity to jump ahead and draw for two points in the sixth end, but her shooter clipped her own guard and it was just a score of a single to tie it back up.
Facing three Team Homan counters in the seventh, Christensen made a draw right on top of the button to go back ahead by one — 6-5 — without the hammer coming home.
Christensen (0-5) was heavy on her final rock in the eighth end and it was left exposed, allowing Homan to punch it out.
“It was a great game and lots of shots made by both teams,” Courtney said. “Lots of efficiency with the hammer. It’s always fun to play (against) this team. They’re a fantastic group. Yeah, pumped for the playoffs.”
Homan awaits the winner of a tiebreaker between Team Kerri Einarson of Gimli, Man., and Team Eun-Jung Kim of South Korea while Team Tracy Fleury of East St. Paul, Man., will face South Korea’s Team Eun-Ji Kim in the other quarterfinal matchup. Although all five teams finished with identical 3-2 records, Einarson and Kim had the lowest draw-to-the-button shootout scores and will play off for the final berth to keep their season alive.
Sweden’s Team Anna Hasselborg went undefeated through the preliminary round at 5-0 and Switzerland’s Team Silvana Tirinzoni posted a 4-1 mark to earn the byes to the semifinals.
Meanwhile, Winnipeg’s Team Jason Gunnlaugson (3-2) grabbed the last men’s playoff spot with a 6-3 victory over Team Soo-Hyuk Kim (2-3) of South Korea.
Gunnlaugson said it was huge for his team to qualify for the quarterfinals in consecutive Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling events.
“I think we’ve got six of the top seven in the world in the playoffs here,” Gunnlaugson said. “It’s always fun to be included in that group and try and climb the ladder a couple more places.”
The team of Gunnlaugson, second Matt Wozniak and lead Connor Njegovan welcomed super spare Tyler Tardi at third this week with Adam Casey away. Gunnlaugson had high praise for the two-time world junior men’s champion.
“He’s unbelievable,” Gunnlaugson said. “Just a fantastic player and an even better guy. It’s great with Tyler, Woz and Connor, we’re having a lot of fun and really enjoying this week.”
Gunnlaugson broke a 2-2 tie with a deuce in the fourth, forced Kim to a single in the fifth and counted a couple more points in the seventh.
Sweden’s Team Niklas Edin (4-1) and Calgary’s Team Kevin Koe (4-1) secured the byes to the men’s semifinals earlier Friday.
Brad Jacobs (4-1) and his crew from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., were the odd men out based on draw-to-the-button shootout scores. Jacobs holds the No. 3 seed in the quarterfinals and will play Gunnlaugson.
Both Team Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., and Edmonton’s Team Brendan Bottcher qualified with 3-2 records and face off in the other quarterfinal matchup.
Elsewhere in the evening draw, Toronto’s Team John Epping (2-3) ended their run with a 5-4 win over Edmonton’s Team Ryan Jacques (1-4). Epping, third Ryan Fry and lead Brent Laing finished their tenure together as a trio as second Mat Camm was absent for the event.
Team Tabitha Peterson (2-3) from the U.S. wrapped up their season with a 7-4 win over Saskatoon’s Team Amber Holland (1-4).
The tiebreaker between Team Einarson and Team Kim kicks off Saturday’s coverage at 2 p.m. ET / noon local time on Sportsnet 360 with online streaming at Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and Yare (international).
The quarterfinals and semifinals are also scheduled for Saturday with both finals set for Sunday.
The KIOTI Tractor Champions Cup is the fourth and final Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event of the 2021-22 season featuring 12 men’s teams and 12 women’s teams who have won top tour titles in order to qualify. … A combined $210,000 prize purse is up for grabs with the winning teams earning $25,000 plus berths to next year’s KIOTI Tractor Champions Cup. … 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.