Koe, Fleury begin with wins at GSOC Meridian Canadian Open

Kevin Koe delivers a rock during the second draw of the Meridian Canadian Open on Jan. 15, 2020, in Yorkton, Sask. (Anil Mungal)

YORKTON, Sask. — Calgary’s Team Kevin Koe cruised to a 7-4 victory Wednesday morning over Team Peter de Cruz of Switzerland to start their run in the Meridian Canadian Open at the Gallagher Centre.

The reigning Pinty’s Cup champion Koe only needed to score points in two ends counting three in the third and four in the fifth. De Cruz, who topped Koe for bronze at the 2018 Winter Olympics, was limited to just singles through the match and shook hands after six ends.

Upset alert: Team Korey Dropkin of the United States stunned Scotland’s Team Bruce Mouat 6-5. Dropkin, who won the Tour Challenge Tier 2 title to earn a promotion into the elite ranks, scored a deuce in the third and stole a pair in the fourth to jump out to a 5-2 lead at the break. Mouat, ranked No. 3 in the world, responded with a couple in five and swiped a point in seven to tie it up, but Dropkin held the hammer coming home for the final frame and added the winning single.

In women’s play, Masters champions Team Tracy Fleury of East St. Paul, Man., stole three points in the first and fended off Tour Challenge Tier 2 winners Team Min Ji Kim of South Korea 4-3.

Team Satsuki Fujisawa beat Team Team Sayaka Yoshimura 5-4 in an all-Japanese club battle and Team Nina Roth of the United States defeated Switzerland’s Team Silvana Tirinzoni 6-4. Third Tabitha Peterson has moved up to skip the American squad with Roth away on maternity leave.

The Meridian Canadian Open is the only event in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling to use triple knockout for preliminary play. Teams must win three games before they lose three games in order to qualify for the weekend playoffs. Each loss drops teams to a lower bracket until they are eliminated. Two A-qualifiers (3-0 records), three B-qualifiers (3-1 records) and three C-qualifiers (3-2 records) advance to the quarterfinals in both men’s and women’s divisions.

Action continues Wednesday at Noon CT. Broadcast coverage begins Thursday at 1 p.m. ET on Sportsnet with online streaming via Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and Yare (international).

NOTES: The Meridian Canadian Open is the fourth event and third major of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season featuring 16 of the top men’s teams and 16 of the top women’s teams from around the world. … At stake is a $300,000 total purse, split equally between the men’s and women’s divisions, with the winners earning $35,000 plus berths to the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup. … Also up for grabs: points for the Pinty’s Cup, which is the season title awarded following the conclusion of the Princess Auto Players’ Championship in April.

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