Howard halts Gushue in GSOC Tour Challenge quarterfinals

Kevin Koe makes a circus shot but it's not quite enough to score two after a measurement as his team is eliminated 7-6 by Peter de Cruz in the GSOC Tour Challenge men's quarterfinals.

THUNDER BAY, Ont. — There will be a new Tour Challenge Tier 1 men’s champion crowned at Tournament Centre.

Team Glenn Howard of Penetanguishene, Ont., eliminated defending champs Team Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., 6-4 during Saturday’s quarterfinals.

The 56-year-old Howard, a winner of 14 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling titles as a skip, delivered a vintage performance shooting a team-leading 95 percent. Team Howard as a whole came to play with third Scott Howard, Glenn’s son, shooting 93 percent, second David Mathers at 92 percent and lead Tim March at “only” 90 percent.

Team Gushue entered the quarterfinals as the No. 1 seed and held the hammer to start after going undefeated at 4-0 through pool play. Gushue was unable to convert for a big score to start, however, as the 11-time GSOC title winner was forced to draw for just a single in the opening end.

Howard faced a messy house in the third and bopped the pile with his last to guarantee his two points and turned it into a 3-1 advantage as Gushue drew for a piece of the button in the fourth but it wasn’t enough to outrank the counter.

Gushue drew for a deuce in five to tie it up but Howard took two in six to reclaim the lead and kept the pace from there. With shot rock in seven sandwiched, Gushue threw his last away to settle for another single and Howard tacked on another point coming home with the hammer in eight.

Team Howard also defeated Regina’s Team Matt Dunstone 6-4 in the morning tiebreaker to qualify.

Howard will play Edmonton’s Team Brendan Bottcher, who bounced Team Rich Ruohonen of the United States 5-1.

Meanwhile, Team Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., will go up against Switzerland’s Team Peter de Cruz in the other semifinal.

Jacobs knocked off Team John Shuster of the United States and De Cruz clipped Calgary’s Team Kevin Koe with both games sporting identical 7-6 scores.

Ottawa’s Team Rachel Homan faces Team Nina Roth of the United States and Team Tracy Fleury of East St. Paul takes on Team Kerri Einarson of Gimli in an all-Manitoba battle in the women’s semifinals.

Homan beat Edmonton’s Team Laura Walker 5-3, Roth topped Winnipeg’s Team Jennifer Jones 6-5, Fleury knocked off Winnipeg’s Team Darcy Robertson 6-3 and Einarson edged out Team Silvana Tirinzoni of Switzerland 5-4 during the early afternoon women’s quarterfinals.

Watch the men’s and women’s semifinals at 8 p.m. ET on Sportsnet 360. Online streaming is available at Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and Yare (international).

Both finals are set for Sunday with the women up first at Noon ET followed by the men’s championship game at 4 p.m. ET (Sportsnet).

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 event. … 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.

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