Brier champ Gushue heating up heading into Elite 10 playoffs

Brad Gushue hits off his own to get to Reid Carruthers's rock and eliminate it to win 3 & 2 and advance to the playoffs.

WINNIPEG — Brad Gushue has found the momentum once again at the Princess Auto Elite 10.

The back-to-back Brier champion from St. John’s, N.L., scored a 3 & 2 victory Friday night over Winnipeg’s Reid Carruthers shutting out the hometown hero three ends to none in the final round-robin draw of the match-play event.

Gushue finished the preliminary play portion with eight points and a 2-1-0-1 record (two regulation wins, one shootout win and one regulation loss) to advance to the playoffs.

“The ice was good, we had a good feel for draw weight and the guys judged a few of mine beautifully and put them in perfect spots,” Gushue said. “When we have a good read on the ice, we can make lots of shots and I think today we had a much better feel than what we had yesterday.”

Team Gushue headed straight from their successful title defence at the Brier Sunday in Regina to the Princess Auto Elite 10 and stumbled a bit to start Thursday losing to Glenn Howard and escaping with a shootout victory over Niklas Edin of Sweden. The nine-time Grand Slam champion Gushue got back on track properly picking up a regulation win earlier Friday versus Toronto’s John Epping.

“We got off to a really slow start yesterday but today I thought we played a little bit more like the team I’m used to,” said Gushue, who won the Elite 10 in 2016. “We put rocks in good positions and made some big shots. I think we got a better feel for the ice today. I was much happier to see our team perform today than I was yesterday.”

A bizarre moment occurred in the second end after Gushue made an insane draw to avoid giving up a steal. Both Carruthers and Gushue’s stones tied as neither the measuring stick nor the laser could determine which one was closer to the pin.

“The way the guys swept that down there, that was an incredible shot just to get a tie,” Gushue said. “They swept that to perfection and a tie or a win in that situation, it was a carryover, so we were happy. I’ve never had it happen and to get a laser in there and have it to be the same, that’s incredible.”

A new rule for the event was switching thinking time from 33 total minutes to four minutes per end and Carruthers appeared to struggle with clock management ticking down to only a handful of seconds in the third and fourth. Both ends resulted in steals for Gushue as Carruthers hammered his last into the pile in three with no chance at scoring while his last in four crashed on a guard.

“We had a lot of situations where we were in good shape and they had to kind of figure out a way to get out of it and four minutes in this format is not a lot of time,” Gushue said. “Sometimes it can lead to a bad decision because you don’t have enough time to think about or you’re going to run out.”

Gushue’s final rock in the fifth flew by untouched but Carruthers couldn’t capitalize as his draw shot came up light and his sweepers were unable to drag it in for a push to lose the hammer.

Gushue put the game away in the sixth end with a pair of perfect shots starting with a runback double to lie three. Carruthers drew for shot rock, but Gushue followed up with an in-off from the side to get to the counter and knock it aside adding the elimination checkmark on the board.

Team Carruthers was ousted with only three points and a 0-1-1-2 record.

Elsewhere, Kevin Koe and his Calgary crew earned their third three-point victory of the day defeating American John Shuster 3 & 1 in an Olympic rematch.

Koe, who finished fourth at the Pyeongchang Winter Games, has advanced straight through to the semifinals at second overall in the standings with nine points and a 3-0-0-1 record. The reigning Olympic gold medallist Shuster was knocked out with three points and an opposite 1-0-0-3 record.

Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., qualified for the quarterfinals with a 2 & 1 win over Winnipeg’s Jason Gunnlaugson. The 2014 Olympic champion Jacobs also had a three-game Friday and finished at 2-0-0-2 (six points) in round-robin play. Gunnlaugson goes home empty-handed at 0-0-0-4.

Jacobs will play Howard (2-0-1-1, seven points) in the quarterfinals while Gushue awaits the winner of a tiebreaker between Epping (2-0-0-2, six points) and Edin (1-1-1-1, six points).

Team Jacobs avoided the tiebreaker scenario thanks to a superior pre-game draw-to-the-button total over Team Epping and Team Edin.

Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen (4-0-0-0) topped the table with 12 points to earn the first bye to the semifinals.

Teams can win an end by either counting two or more rocks (with the hammer) or stealing at least one (without the hammer). If the score is tied after eight ends, a draw-to-the-button shootout will determine the winner.

Teams received three points for a regulation win, two points for a shootout win and one point for a shootout loss.

The tiebreaker goes down Saturday at St. James Civic Centre at 8:30 a.m. CT. Television coverage resumes with the quarterfinals at Noon CT on Sportsnet followed by the semifinals at 4 p.m. CT on Sportsnet ONE. Watch the quarterfinals and semifinals online at Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and Yare TV (international).

NOTES: The Princess Auto Elite 10 is the fifth tournament of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season and runs through to Sunday. … The winning team earns an invitation to the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup taking place April 24-29 at Calgary’s WinSport Arena.

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