TORONTO — Marc Kennedy wanted to follow in the footsteps of his former skip Kevin Martin, who capped his career winning the prestigious Players’ Championship four years ago.
Consider it mission accomplished then as Kennedy, who will be taking a break after this season, has added his name to the trophy once again with Team Kevin Koe defeating Team Niklas Edin 6-2 in Sunday’s final at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre.
It is Koe’s fifth title in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling series while Kennedy and lead Ben Hebert earned their 12th and second Brent Laing picked up his 15th.
“How good is that? It was great,” said Kennedy, who throws third for the Calgary-based crew. “I remember how special it was for Kevin to finish with a Players’ Championship. If you can leave on a winning note it was special. I could feel a little bit of adrenaline today, excitement and just happy to be able to have this opportunity to be with the boys.”
It was after Martin’s 2014 Players’ Championship victory when Kennedy and Hebert along with Laing, who previously played for Ontario’s Glenn Howard, joined Koe for this quadrennial with the term “super team” immediately tossed around. It took them time to gel but they hit their stride with a banner 2015-16 season capturing the Tour Challenge Tier 1, Canada Cup, Brier and world championship titles.
Team Koe earned Canada’s Olympic spot but it was a heartbreaking finish off of the podium at the Pyeongchang Winter Games in fourth place.
The end is almost near for Team Koe. On top of Kennedy’s impending hiatus, Laing is heading back to Ontario to reunite with lead Craig Savill on John Epping’s new-look squad. Hebert is sticking with Koe and the duo has added third B.J. Neufeld from Team McEwen and former skip Colton Flasch at second.
“We’ve had an incredible four-year run,” Kennedy added. “I know we have one more event but this was really the big one we wanted to win. I’m proud of the guys and [feel] very fortunate.”
Team Koe cleared the table finishing with an outstanding unblemished 8-0 record in arguably the toughest tournament on tour with 12 of the top men’s teams in the world competing in the 26th running of the Players’ Championship.
“It’s so good,” Kennedy said. “We definitely got some misses. We got some gifts today from Niklas that we usually don’t get but we played loose and relaxed, we made big shots when we had to and that’s what it takes to win these days.”
Koe opened with the hammer and was able to convert in the second end connecting with a thin double takeout to crack open the scoring with a deuce.
The reigning world champion Edin from Sweden was seeing red looking at five counters in the house during the third end and was forced to draw for one, landing on the lid.
Koe grabbed a single in four, forced Edin to one more lone point in five and added another deuce in six on an amazing angle raise takeout.
Edin looked to score in seven but jammed the runback double to concede one and shook hands.
Kennedy praised his skip Koe, who shot the lights out finishing at 91 percent.
“It was his day and usually when he plays like that we win a lot of events,” Kennedy said. “It was nice to see all of us put in a good week. Just happy. A little sad it’s over. We had a really good run.”
Team Koe will finish out the season at home competing in the Humpty’s Champions Cup — taking place April 24-29 at Calgary’s WinSport Arena — and Kennedy believes it’ll be a great one now that they’re heading in there coming off of a win like this.
“I think we’re going to play loose and relaxed,” Kennedy said. “We’re going to have our families there too, which is nice. Having my family there for maybe my last event will be very special. We couldn’t go there on a better note.”
The team of Edin, third Oskar Eriksson, second Rasmus Wrana and lead Christoffer Sundgren won their third Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title at the Players’ Championship last year and have finished runner-up at three events since. Edin defeated Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., for the world title one week ago in Las Vegas.
Gushue was also a big winner this week clinching the $75,000 Bonus Cup as the season champion in the series.
Later, Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones goes for a record seventh Players’ Championship women’s title facing American Jamie Sinclair at 5 p.m. ET on Sportsnet One.