TORONTO — You probably have a better chance of successfully navigating an asteroid field than scoring three points in the final end to win back-to-back games in the semifinals and final of the Princess Auto Players’ Championship.
But never tell Kevin Koe the odds as the Canadian skip pulled it off Saturday against compatriot Brad Gushue and then again Sunday with the men’s title on the line against Switzerland’s Yannick Schwaller.
Koe completed a 5-4 comeback victory over Schwaller to earn his fifth Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title as a skip and first with third Tyler Tardi, second Brad Thiessen and lead Karrick Martin.
Down by two and — in typical Koe fashion — with his thinking time clock ticking down to almost single digits, Koe nailed an electric triple takeout to the delight of the Mattamy Athletic Centre crowd.
“It was great,” said Koe, whose Calgary-based club claimed $40,000 with the title victory. “I think this is the hardest event to win out there just with the quality of the field. There are top teams that have had their best years all season.
“It was hard and they played great. They didn’t miss much, missed maybe, kind of one at the end and we were just fortunate to have a shot. We made the shots we had to (in order) to stay in there, and capitalized at the end.”
Koe had less than 10 seconds left when he pulled off a slash double to score three points to win 7-6 over Gushue to punch a ticket to the final. Once was unreal but to pull off a comeback like that twice?
“It’s got to be pretty uncommon,” Tardi said. “I can’t imagine it’s happened ever, really, and to do it in the dramatic fashion we did both times, it’s cool to be part of that.”
Thiessen, who is stepping back from competitive curling to spend more time with his family, was thrilled to go out on a high note.
“Kind of funny going into this, I didn’t have like super high expectations but just things really worked out,” Thiessen said. “The angles worked out our way and we had a few really nice shots to end a few games there. I mean, you’ve got to have a bit of luck to win these things, for sure. We played well as a team and it’s pretty cool to go off on a win here. I’m really happy about that.”
“This is the best for Brad,” Koe added. “Take some time off, well deserved. He’s had an unbelievable career. I’m sure he’ll probably be back somewhere down the road. It’s great for us too to win. This is our last game this year, so it really gives us some confidence moving into the next season.”
Koe started the final with the hammer but was held to a single point in the opening frame.
Team Schwaller jumped ahead in the second end after Koe missed a long raise takeout attempt and allowed fourth Benoît Schwarz an easy open draw anywhere into the house to score a deuce.
Schwaller, who earned bronze at the world men’s curling championship one week ago, then went up 3-1 in the fourth when Koe misfired an angle raise double to potentially score three but ended up missing the back one and bumping one of his own stones to give up a steal.
Koe was limited to hit and stick for a single in five and Schwarz, who shot a game-high 95 per cent, drew right to the button for a point in six to regain the two-point advantage.
A blank in the seventh end allowed Koe to keep the hammer for the final frame and set the table for another dramatic finish.
“It’s funny how it worked out there,” Thiessen said. “The angles just worked out and gave Kevin an out-turn peel down the line for the win. That’s exactly what we wanted to throw in there. It’s pretty cool.”
Thiessen and Martin had won three Grand Slam titles during their tenure with skip Brendan Bottcher, but this was the first-ever championship in the series for Tardi.
“It’s a good way to finish out,” said Tardi, who skipped his own squad before joining Team Koe this season. “I’m happy for Brad. It took a long time for us to really come together and it’s nice to do it in an event like this.
“We had a good Brier, it kind of came to a disappointing close, but we’re playing just as well here as we did there. We’re doing well, it’s just one of those things where we lost the wrong game but it’s nice to close out here with a big win.”
Schwaller, who throws third stones, earned $25,000 as runner-up in his first Grand Slam final and capped a strong first season playing with Schwarz, second Sven Michel and lead Pablo Lachat.
Earlier, Sweden’s Isabella Wranå won her first Grand Slam title after defeating Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni 6-5 in the women’s final.
The KIOTI Tractor Champions Cup concludes the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season, May 2-7, at the Co-operators Centre in Regina.
Broadcast coverage begins May 4 on Sportsnet and SN NOW.