Homan clinches Pinty’s Cup early at GSOC Players’ Championship

Team Homan celebrates their round-robin victory Thursday morning at the Players' Championship in Toronto. (Anil Mungal)

TORONTO — Rachel Homan’s second round-robin victory in the Players’ Championship was all her Ottawa team needed to clinch the Pinty’s Cup.

Thanks to winning three consecutive Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling events earlier this season, Homan pretty much had the season championship on lockdown entering Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre this week with 52 points and a monster 22-point lead over second-place Team Anna Hasselborg and Team Silvana Tirinzoni.

Team Homan held off Team Tracy Fleury of East St. Paul, Man., 8-5 Thursday morning to improve to a 2-1 record and secure the $75,000 bonus prize.

“It’s really exciting,” said Homan, whose team also captured the Pinty’s Cup during the 2015-16 season. “We’ve fallen short a couple of years now, so it’s really nice to be able to clinch that early. Now we can try and focus on doing well here.”

Homan has won a record 10 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling women’s titles and is aiming for the one major missing from her resume. Her club has two more round-robin games on tap including a meeting with Tirinzoni later in the afternoon.

“It was good to get that second win out of the way and we need one more for playoffs,” Homan said. “We’ve got two more games ahead of us, go back and nap in between and try and come out strong tonight.”

Fleury, who opened with the hammer, settled for a single to start and Homan went ahead with a deuce in the second. The teams alternated pairs of points in three and four and Fleury was forced to another lone point in five that locked things up at 4-4.

Homan snapped the tie with authority capitalizing with an open hit to score four in the sixth end as Fleury’s final shot was left exposed.

“It was huge,” Homan said. “Just a little bit off on Tracy’s draw there that allowed us to have that hit for four. Otherwise, we were just drawing for two. It was a tight game for sure the whole way through.”

A cluttered seventh end with just about every rock in play looked like trouble but Homan had Fleury (1-1) locked in a scenario to settle for a single. Fleury wasn’t content with that and attempted an angle raise for more but couldn’t pull it off.

“It was really ugly and there were a lot of misses,” Homan said, “but we were able to make those last few shots to be able to force them to one.”

Elsewhere, Team Elena Stern (1-2) upset Tirinzoni 5-3 in a battle of Swiss teams. The reigning world champion Tirinzoni dropped to a 0-2 record.

Team Brad Jacobs and Team Brad Gushue both secured playoff spots climbing to the top of the men’s standings with 3-0 records.

Jacobs, from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., blanked back-to-back ends to start and then blanked in a different kind with a 6-0 shutout over Toronto’s Team John Epping (1-2). The 2015 Players’ Championship winner Jacobs cracked the scoring with a three-ender in the third and stole a trio of points in the fourth that brought out handshakes.

Gushue, of St. John’s, N.L., counted three-enders in the fourth and sixth during an 8-3 victory over Edmonton’s Team Brendan Bottcher (1-2).

It was also a quick morning for Team Peter de Cruz of Switzerland with an 8-1 rout over Regina’s Team Matt Dunstone in only four ends as well. The 2019 world bronze medallists improved to a 1-2 record by breaking a 1-1 tie in the third with a huge four-ender and a steal of three in the fourth led to Dunstone (0-3) conceding the game early.

Teams are split into two pools for round-robin play with the best eight overall qualifying for the weekend playoffs.

Round-robin action continues at Noon ET with broadcast coverage on Sportsnet and streaming online at Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and Yare (international).

Notes: The Players’ Championship is the sixth event and fourth major of the 2018-19 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling tour featuring 12 of the top men’s teams and 12 of the top women’s teams in the world. … A combined purse of $300,000 is up for grabs with the winning teams cashing in $30,000 each. … The Pinty’s Cup chase is still up for grabs on the men’s side although there’s still more to play for in the women’s division as the top four teams in the standings receive bonuses.

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