New kid on the block Dropkin hanging tough at GSOC Canadian Open

Korey Dropkin delivers a rock during the fifth draw of the Meridian Canadian Open on Jan. 15, 2020, in Yorkton, Sask. (Anil Mungal)

YORKTON, Sask. — Team Korey Dropkin might be the new kids on the block but they’re quickly showing they have the right stuff to hang tough with the top squads of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling.

Dropkin captured the Tour Challenge Tier 2 men’s title last November to earn a promotion into the elite ranks for the Meridian Canadian Open. The American club has jumped out to a 2-0 record in its first day of the event and is one win away from qualifying for the playoffs.

Dropkin earned a pair of one-point victories Wednesday clipping Scotland’s Team Bruce Mouat 6-5 in the morning draw and Masters champions Team Matt Dunstone 5-4 during the evening to reach the A Event finals of the triple knockout preliminary round.

Team Dropkin will now play world No. 1 Team Brad Jacobs Thursday. Jacobs is aiming for a third consecutive GSOC men’s title after winning the Tour Challenge Tier 1 and BOOST National back-to-back.

“It feels really good,” Dropkin said. “It feels just good being on this page, on this level, and playing out there with everyone and getting a couple wins. We’re happy with how we’re playing. We have a lot of things we’ve got to sharpen up in order to take it to the next level, so that’s kind of what we’re going to do. We’re going to get some rest tonight and focus on what we need to improve on tomorrow to beat Jacobs.”

Although the four main members of Team Dropkin are all in the early-to-mid 20s and have dubbed themselves the Young Bucks, alternate Joe Polo has been subbing in the lineup playing third. The 37-year-old Polo, who was the fifth man for Olympic gold medallists Team Shuster previously, joined the group this season and has become their Uncle Buck.

“We won with this lineup at the Tier 2, so we figured we’d stick with it here to see how it works and it’s been working pretty well,” Dropkin said. “We’re going to keep rolling.”

The Meridian Canadian Open is the lone Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event to use the triple knockout where teams must win three games before they lose three games in order to qualify for the 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.

“It’s nice to have the triple knockout format in which as long as you’re in it you have the destiny in your own hands,” Dropkin said. “Being able to just come here and get some wins, just keep playing how we’re playing and getting better with every game is what we’re looking forward to.”

Elsewhere during the fifth draw, Team Peter de Cruz of Switzerland defeated Saskatoon’s Team Kirk Muyres 6-2 and Edmonton’s Team Brendan Bottcher thumped Winnipeg’s Team Jason Gunnlaugson 8-1 in the first round of the B Event. De Cruz and Bottcher both improved to 1-1 records and meet each other next while Muyres and Gunnlaugson dropped to 0-2 and face off in the C Event to stay in contention.

In women’s play, Scotland’s Team Eve Muirhead and Team Kerri Einarson of Gimli, Man., climbed to 2-0 records and will play each other in the A Event finals.

Muirhead stole two in the eighth to escape with a 5-3 victory over Team Tracy Fleury of East St. Paul, Man., while Einarson rolled away to an 8-3 win against Japan’s Team Satsuki Fujisawa.

Fleury and Fujisawa, both 1-1, will play in the B Event.

The Meridian Canadian Open resumes with Draw 6 Thursday at 8 a.m. CT. Broadcast coverage begins 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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