Flaxey slams Wrana in GSOC return at Tour Challenge

Allison Flaxey shoots a stone during the second round-robin draw of the Tour Challenge on Nov. 7, 2018, in Thunder Bay, Ont. (Anil Mungal)

THUNDER BAY, Ont. — Welcome back to the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling, Allison Flaxey.

The 2016 Masters champion made her series return with her all-new Winnipeg-based squad and brushed aside Sweden’s Team Isabella Wrana 9-1 in only five ends during the Tour Challenge second round-robin draw Wednesday morning.

Flaxey, from Caledon East, Ont., joined forces this season with third Kate Cameron and lead Raunora Westcott, previously with Michelle Englot, plus second Taylor McDonald, who made the move to Winnipeg after playing with Edmonton’s Kelsey Rocque.

The 2017 world junior champion Wrana stole a point to start, but it was all Flaxey from there counting three in the second, stealing two in the third and four in the fifth for early handshakes.

Elsewhere, Winnipeg’s Team Darcy Robertson topped Team Casey Scheidegger of Lethbridge, Alta., 6-5 and Team Kerri Einarson of Gimli, Man., beat Team Cory Christensen of Chaska, Minn., 5-3.

In the lone men’s game, Switzerland’s Team Peter de Cruz picked up where they left off in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling edging Sweden’s Team Niklas Edin 5-4 in a repeat of last season’s Meridian Canadian Open final. It was De Cruz’s first game in the series since capturing his first career Grand Slam title 10 months ago.

Fourth Benoit Schwarz came through in the clutch on the final shot of the game. With the score all square and Edin sitting three, Schwarz managed to manoeuvre his last shot through the port and hit to score the winner.

The Tour Challenge is the third event of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season featuring the largest field in the series with 60 teams split into two tiers of action. Tier 1 includes 15 of the top men’s teams and 15 of the top women’s teams from around the world. Both Tier 2 divisions are composed of the next 10 teams ranked on the World Curling Tour’s Order of Merit plus five teams from within the event’s region.

Round-robin play runs through to Friday night with the top eight teams overall in each division qualifying for Saturday’s quarterfinals. The semifinals are set for Saturday evening with all finals scheduled for Sunday.

TIER 2 RESULTS: Team Jaap van Dorp of the Netherlands clipped Team Colin Koivula of Thunder Bay, Ont., 9-8 in an extra end. Team Scott McDonald of Kingston, Ont., stopped Team Mark Fenner of Chaska, Minn., 5-4 and Scotland’s Team Glen Muirhead halted Team Andrew Stopera of Chaska, Minn., 4-3.

Team Elena Stern beat Team Binia Feltscher 6-2 in an all-Swiss battle on the women’s side and Team Julie Tippin of Woodstock, Ont., trumped Team Hailey Beaudry of Thunder Bay, Ont., 9-3.

NOTES: Winners of the Tour Challenge Tier 1 earn $25,000 of the $200,000 total purse plus berths to the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup. … Points are also up for grabs in the Tier 1 division towards the Pinty’s Cup, which is awarded to season champions following the conclusion of the Players’ Championship in April. … Tier 2 winners earn the opportunity to move up the ranks receiving invitations to the 2019 Meridian Canadian Open in North Battleford, Sask.

UP NEXT: The Tour Challenge continues at 11:30 a.m. ET at Thunder Bay Tournament Centre. Broadcast coverage begins Thursday at 11:30 a.m. ET on Sportsnet and online at Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and Yare (international).

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