TORONTO — Jamie Sinclair was completely stunned.
“What the [expletive] just happened?!”
Sinclair’s team from Blaine, Minn., became the first American crew to capture a Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title — and at the prestigious Players’ Championship no less — upsetting Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones 7-2 in Sunday’s final at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre.
The team of Sinclair, third Alex Carlson, second Vicky Persinger and lead Monica Walker earned $30,000 for the win plus $40,000 for finishing second in the GSOC’s Bonus Cup standings.
“I’m not sure I have words just yet,” Sinclair said. “I’m a little bit in shock, I’m not going to lie. I just can’t believe it. Everything just seemed to fall into place for us this week. We played really well all week and couldn’t be more proud of the team for how we worked on and off the ice this week. Everything just seemed to groove really well.”
Team Sinclair has had a roller coaster of a season losing their Olympic Trials final to Nina Roth’s rink but getting the opportunity to go to the world championship after successfully defending the U.S. national title. Sinclair finished off of the podium there in fourth place.
“It’s been a really long season for us,” Walker said. “There’s been so many ups and downs with losing the Olympic Trials but then winning our nationals, going to worlds and feeling like we had more to give at worlds like we should have maybe had a medal at worlds and it just didn’t work out in our favour. This is kind of like icing on the cake for us. We just came in and played our game and it just worked out.”
Sinclair added that it’s super exciting to enter the record books as the first U.S. winners in the series capturing the title in her first Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling final too.
“It’s nice to go down in history for that and hopefully it’s just a start,” said Sinclair, a dual American-Canadian citizen who was born in Anchorage, Alaska, and grew up in the Ottawa area. “Hopefully, we’ll start seeing American teams more frequently in the playoffs.”
Team Sinclair’s win also follows in the wake of another “Miracurl on Ice” with compatriot John Shuster capturing Olympic gold at the Pyeongchang Winter Games in February.
“It feels really good and especially after Shuster’s gold medal just because it feels like U.S. curling is on the rise,” Walker said. “Any win that any team has is just good for the sport in our country. We’re really excited about that.”
Jones, who is the reigning Canadian and world champion, was aiming to add to her record six Players’ titles and was riding a 27-game winning streak that came to an end.
Steals were the story to start as Sinclair set the tone with precision shots. Jones, who opened with the hammer, jammed on a double takeout attempt for three in the second end and gave up one.
It was double trouble in the third as Jones whiffed on back-to-back raises and couldn’t connect on Sinclair’s pair of stones near the button to fall behind 3-0.
“It’s huge and that’s exactly what we wanted to do,” Sinclair said. “Without the hammer, we wanted to clog up that four-foot and put some pressure on her, make her throw those angle runs. She made them against us at the worlds but just came up short against us here today, so we definitely tried to capitalize on that.”
The highway robbery continued as Jones dropped another single steal in the fourth while looking to make an angle raise from downtown for a possible three but didn’t get it right.
Jones finally got on the board in the fifth end but it was only for a single. Sinclair continued her aggressive play sitting seven stones with four in the house and three up top as guards, but it was Jones with shot rock and a chance to score two. She hit but was an inch away and only got one.
“Especially with the five-rock rule, it’s definitely more aggressive than we’re used to,” Sinclair said. “We’re a bit outside of our comfort zone but we knew we just had to keep the pedal down kind of thing.”
Sinclair looked to finish things off in her first try with the hammer in the sixth. After Jones drew to the eight-foot partially covered, Sinclair looked to follow the path and score three but could only nudge the counter and not far enough to hand back a point.
“I figured it was worth it,” Sinclair said. “If I could have gotten that shot for three it would have definitely been worth it and I wasn’t too upset giving up a steal. I went for it, I guess.”
That only delayed the inevitable as Sinclair hit for the three count in seven that brought a three count to the match as Jones shook hands.
Walker praised Sinclair, who led all skips during the week shooting 85 percent.
“I don’t look at stats as much during the week but I did notice that she was up there,” Walker said. “Obviously, playing with her I know that she was playing really well this week. It’s just one of those weeks when we were hot and she was in her zone, so it was great.”
Team Sinclair will wrap up the season at the Humpty’s Champions Cup running April 24-29 at Calgary’s WinSport Arena and they feel great entering the final Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event of the campaign.
“Definitely a boost of confidence going into the last event of the season,” Sinclair said. “We’re just going to have some fun, ride this high and hopefully keep playing just as well as we did this week.”
Jones, who clinched the $75,000 Bonus Cup earlier in the week, added $24,000 to her total with her runner-up finish.
Earlier, Calgary’s Kevin Koe claimed the Players’ Championship men’s title with a 6-2 victory over Niklas Edin of Sweden.