YORKTON, Sask. — Toronto’s John Epping believed he would have to keep shooting lights-out in order to beat Brad Gushue.
Epping kept it 100 percent, shooting an unreal perfect score, to win his third career Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title at the Meridian Canadian Open defeating the defending champion 7-4 in seven ends Sunday.
“That’s exactly what you have to do against Brad,” Epping said. “They’re such a good team you have to make the big ones. If not, the game would have been a lot closer. Again, fortunate enough to make those and it all went our way.”
“It feels unbelievable,” he said. “It’s just so tough to win a Grand Slam. All the top teams in the world and to beat three or four of them this week all in a row, it’s just so hard to do. That’s what I think makes it so rewarding at the end of the day.”
It’s the first Grand Slam championship for third Mat Camm, second Pat Janssen, and lead Tim March.
Epping was playing in his first Grand Slam final since winning the 2012 Players’ Championship and had gone through several lineup tweaks and changes, even cleaning house in 2014, but has clicked together with this crew.
“It feels awesome. It’s been a great fit so far. It’s taken a bit of time to come together but we knew it was going to,” Epping said. “We really believed in it and believed this team would win something big and do well. We just seem to peak and it’s come together. It’s three guys I’m just so happy to win a Slam with and in their first Slam. It’s just so special.”
Gushue opened with the hammer but Epping forced the four-time Grand Slam champion and 2006 Olympic gold medallist to a single in the first.
Epping scored two in the second, held Gushue to one point in three, and made a sizzling angle raise takeout for another deuce in the fourth end.
Epping continued to make flamethrower shots and scored three in the sixth. Gushue was limited to another single in seven and shook hands.
Gushue, third Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant and lead Geoff Walker continue to lead the Rogers Grand Slam Cup standings. The rink won the National last month in Oshawa, Ont., and also finished runner-up at their home-province Tour Challenge event in Paradise, N.L., to open the Pinty’s GSOC season in September.
The Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling continues with the 2016 Elite 10, running March 17-20 in Victoria, B.C.
Homan wins Canadian Open women’s title
YORKTON, Sask. — Rachel Homan’s incredible year continues as she captured an unprecedented third consecutive Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling championship of the season.
Following back-to-back title wins at the Masters and National, Homan took the Meridian Canadian Open title by scoring two in the final end to lift her Ottawa-based team to an 8-7 win over Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones in the women’s final Sunday.
“We’re pretty excited,” Homan said. “It hasn’t been done before so I’m excited to keep rolling. Excited for our Christmas break.”
It’s also Homan’s fifth Pinty’s GSOC title overall, tying Jones for the most among women’s skips, and she climbed to a stunning 26-5 overall record in the series this season.
Jones opened with the hammer and made a tap to score two in the first. Her team struggled through the second and Homan capitalized making a nose hit for three to take a 3-2 lead.
Team Homan had two stones parked together in the house, one of which sat for shot, during the third end and Jones bumped them both out to match with a three-count of her own to retake the two-point advantage.
Homan said that it’s all part of having the five-rock rule in effect. Teams cannot eliminate rocks sitting in the free-guard zone above the house until five stones have been played, giving the team with hammer a chance to bounce back big.
“Yeah it’s huge and it’s a lot of fun,” she said. “It’s a lot of rocks in play. It makes the game more interesting for the fans and you can’t ever let up when you’re playing as well so we love it.”
Homan held shot rock in four and attempted a runback for three but missed and just got the single, however, back-to-back steals in five and six put her up 6-5.
Jones faced three counters in the fifth and opted for a light tap to only give up one. The reigning Olympic and Scotties champion sat one on the edge of the button in six and Homan froze her final shot on top for what appeared to be shot rock. Jones’s last rock clipped a guard and a close measurement gave Homan the point another single steal for the lead.
Jones, a five-time Players’ Championship winner, had a rock frozen on top of Homan’s shot rock in seven and used her last to bump it out to take two and a 7-6 lead.
Down by a point coming home with the hammer, Homan sat first and second shot after throwing her first skip stone and Jones wrecked on a guard with her last to bring out handshakes.
“Jones played really well,” Homan said. “They came out firing and we had a couple misses here and there and they had some really well-deserved twos and threes and we had to battle back really hard in that game.”
Team Homan have won seven titles on tour this year. They were also finalists at the season-opening Pinty’s GSOC event, the Tour Challenge, in September.
“I think that’s win No. 53 for us of the season, which is amazing, and we just have to keep going,” Homan said. “We’re resting right now though.”