Koe clips McEwen to qualify for GSOC Champions Cup playoffs

Rachel Homan makes the precision hit to score three and lift her team past Alina Paetz in a tiebreaker and into the Humpty's Champions Cup playoffs.

CALGARY — Hometown hero Kevin Koe is clear through to the quarterfinals of the Humpty’s Champions Cup at WinSport Arena.

Koe qualified for the playoffs with a 5-2 victory over Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen during the last round-robin draw Friday night.

The recently crowned Players’ champion Koe finished the preliminary play with a 3-1 record and takes on Edmonton’s Brendan Bottcher, who also went 3-1, on Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. MT. Meanwhile, McEwen ended at 2-2 and takes on Saskatoon’s Colton Flasch in a tiebreaker at 8:30 a.m. MT.

Team Koe third Marc Kennedy said it was key to avoid the tiebreaker jam.

“You go to the tiebreakers, you’re not going to have an easy game,” he said. “We wanted to play well in that one and we did. Mike had a couple opportunities that he usually makes and he missed them, so he gave us a few gifts but we’ll take it and happy to make it into the quarters.”

Programming Alert: Watch an encore presentation of Draw 13 Saturday at 11:30 a.m. ET on Sportsnet One.

After McEwen settled for a single in the second, Koe squandered a shot for three in the third as he just had to draw into the paint and went all the way through the rings to only score a deuce.

The bad breaks shifted in the other direction from there though as McEwen’s raise attempt for two in the fourth went through untouched and he had to settle for a single that tied it 2-2.

McEwen misfired another runback in six sailing past Koe’s counter on the button and the Canadian Olympic rep drew into the four-foot circle for his second point and a 4-2 advantage.

Koe remained in charge and added a steal in seven to make it a three-point game as McEwen’s run double attempt failed to connect with the counter. The seven-time Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title winner McEwen had nowhere to hide in eight and Koe ran him out of rocks.

“They were tough shots,” Kennedy said. “They were shots you expect Mike to make though and I think he’s a little disappointed that he missed them. All around for us, we played pretty well and gave our skip a chance to make some good shots. He made two great shots in six for the deuce and kind of got control of the game and went from there.”

The season finale Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling tournament is the last for both teams. McEwen is joining Team Carruthers at fourth stones next season with third B.J. Neufeld linking up with Koe at third and lead Denni Neufeld going to Team Gunnlaugson at second.

B.J. Neufeld replaces Kennedy, who is taking a break from competitive curling. Flasch is also coming on board at second with Brent Laing returning to his home province of Ontario to play with Team Epping.

Elsewhere in Draw 13, Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., took the top seed of the playoffs undefeated at 4-0 wrapping things up with a 7-3 decision over Winnipeg’s Reid Carruthers.

“It’s important because it gives you hammer throughout the playoffs, unless we face a 4-0 team, but our record is pretty good when we have the hammer and I like our chances if we have the hammer,” Gushue said. “It’s a good bonus to get with winning that game but making the playoffs is the first priority and then see if you can get hammer.”

Even though Gushue had already qualified earlier in the day, with a 7-2 victory over Team Persinger from the U.S., he didn’t ease up and wanted to stay on track against Carruthers, who was in a must-win situation.

“It’s more from our standpoint we were just trying to keep our game together, playing solid and building towards the playoffs,” Gushue said. “Sometimes in those games when you’re already qualified you can let down, have a bad performance and then all of a sudden that carries over into the playoffs. We didn’t do that tonight. We played well and we even improved on some of our performances this week, which is a good sign.”

The GSOC Bonus Cup champion Gushue jumped out to a 3-0 lead with a deuce in the second followed by a steal of one in the third. The teams alternated singles in four and five and Carruthers took two in the sixth to close within one.

Carruthers (1-3) crashed on his last in seven and shook hands to end his season with Gushue already sitting three.

Two-time Olympic gold medallist John Morris, who plans on stepping back from men’s play to focus on mixed doubles, subbed in at third this week on Team Carruthers.

Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., kept his title defence alive blitzing world junior champion Tyler Tardi of Langley, B.C., 9-0.

Although Jacobs (2-2) was forced to single in the second end, the 2014 Olympic gold medallist took the express route on the steal train swiping pairs of points in the third and fourth ends and a big four score in the fifth. Tardi heads home with a 1-3 record.

Jacobs takes on Winnipeg’s Jason Gunnlaugson in the morning tiebreaker.

In women’s tiebreakers, defending champ Rachel Homan of Ottawa stayed in the mix scoring three in the eighth to oust Alina Paetz of Switzerland 8-7.

Edmonton’s Val Sweeting eliminated Delia DeJong of Grande Prairie, Alta., 4-3 and moves onto a second tiebreaker in the morning against Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones.

The Humpty’s Champions Cup features 15 men’s teams and 15 women’s teams that won events over the course of the season in order to qualify for entry.

Broadcast coverage resumes with the women’s quarterfinals at Noon MT on Sportsnet 360 with online streaming available at Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and Yare TV (international).

The semifinals are scheduled for Saturday evening at 8 p.m. MT.

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