Do you hear the train comin’, it’s rollin’ ’round the bend? It’s the Team Bottcher express en route to North Bay, Ont., for the Masters.
The Edmonton-based club of skip Brendan Bottcher Bottcher, third Darren Moulding, second Brad Thiessen and lead Karrick Martin cruised to win the final three Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling men’s titles last season and begin this year on track heading into unfamiliar territory. Only legendary skip Kevin Martin (who also happens to be Karrick’s father) has won more than three in a row in the series when his squad captured five in 2006-07.
“It would be pretty exciting if we could keep the streak rolling,” Bottcher said last month during the Shorty Jenkins Classic and at least subtly referencing his teams Twitter hashtag #StillRollin. “We’ll certainly give it a good try and I’m excited to get back out there.”
Team Bottcher’s 2018-19 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season was simply sensational as they competed in four events and wound up in all four finals while posting a sparkling 24-4 win-loss record. After finishing runner-up to Team Jacobs at the Tour Challenge, Team Bottcher opened the New Year winning their first title in the series at the Meridian Canadian Open in January. Following their silver-medal finish at the Brier, Bottcher capped the season claiming back-to-back Grand Slams at the Players’ Championship and Humpty’s Champions Cup in April.
You’d think Bottcher would have wanted to keep last season, ahem, rolling, but even he knew it was time to decompress.
“It was a lot of fun there at the end but we needed a break,” Bottcher said. “That season was long and this year is going to be long and it just feels like it’s never ending. As much as I wanted it to keep going, I was also looking forward to a bit of summer.”
Emphasis on “a bit” as they were almost immediately right back at the drawing board preparing for this season.
“We had a short summer like everyone else,” Bottcher said. “We ended the season on such a high that I think we’re all pretty excited to get going again.”
How does Bottcher’s team plan on maintaining their momentum and pick up where they left off in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling? By sticking with the process that worked so well last year, of course, while also hoping their rocks continue to land on the right side of the inch.
“We’ve spent a lot of time practising, doing the same things we did at the end of last year, so in theory I think now we know what we need to do,” Bottcher said. “If we can just execute that we should be OK.
“To get on a run, you need to have your share of breaks along the way, too, and we definitely got our share last year.”
Team Bottcher haven’t actually had a lot of time on the ice together so far this season. Thiessen had to leave the Shorty Jenkins Classic early and the team played short-handed for the tail-end of their run that finished in the tiebreaker stage. As for the Canad Inns Men’s Classic, the Bottcher train never even left the station as they were stuck in Winnipeg due to the Manitoba snowstorm and didn’t make it to the event in Portage la Prairie. Regardless, the blizzard also knocked out the power at the curling club and the event was cancelled.
Should they arrive at their destination this time, Team Bottcher will hit the ice at North Bay Memorial Gardens for Tuesday night’s opening draw of the Masters against Team McEwen.
NOTES: The Masters is the first of six Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling events on the season and one of four majors in the series. … The total prize purse is $300,000 and is split evenly between the men’s and women’s divisions. Winners receive the lion’s share plus berths towards the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup taking place April 29 to May 3, 2020, in Olds, Alta. … Also up for grabs at the Masters are Pinty’s Cup bonus points. The leaders following the conclusion of the Players’ Championship in April will capture the Pinty’s Cup with additional prize money awarded.