CORNWALL, Ont. — It’s only mid-September, the World Curling Tour is still in its opening stages, some teams haven’t even started playing and yet John Epping is already thinking about the end of April.
That’s because the season-ending Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event, the Humpty’s Champions Cup, requires teams to win a high-profile tournament over the course of the campaign to receive an invitation and Epping’s Toronto-based team failed to secure a spot last year.
Epping can rest easy now knowing he may have one in the bank after capturing the AMJ Campbell Shorty Jenkins Classic men’s title Sunday. Team Epping ran the table with authority posting a perfect 8-0 record and capped the undefeated streak with a 5-2 win over Brad Jacobs and his Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., crew.
While the title victory doesn’t guarantee Epping a place in the Humpty’s Champions Cup, the high strength-of-field number for the prestigious Shorty Jenkins Classic (8.7031) makes it a virtual lock.
“It’s huge,” Epping said following the win. “It takes a little bit of pressure off and it feels really good.”
While it’s Epping’s third championship at the Shorty Jenkins Classic, it’s his first with third Mat Camm, who lives in Cornwall, and his new front-end duo of second Brent Laing and Craig Savill. Epping and Camm added Laing and Savill during the off-season. It’s a reunion for Laing and Savill, who won two world junior titles together plus a pair of world men’s championships and 12 Grand Slams.
“It’s nice to get off to a good start as a new team,” Epping said. “This is big for Mat because he’s from here. He had a lot of fans here and friends and family and it’s his first Shorty Jenkins Classic championship. Some momentum too and hopefully it might grab us a spot in that Champions Cup at the end of the year too as well. Any time you can guarantee yourself something here, that’s great.”
Epping expected it would take some time for the new squad to gel and mesh but so far they’ve been on a roll after opening the season the weekend before at the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard where they reached the semifinals.
“We played pretty solid and I think we’re really taking this September to just try to learn each other and get used to each other,” Epping said. “We know there are going to be some things. Even when you win this week you know there are some things to iron out still and we’ll take some time to do that. It might take us a few months but who knows. We’re still in the honeymoon stage too so we’re really happy with each other right now.”
Epping had Jacobs on the run from the start stealing a single in the first and adding two more in the third when Jacobs came up light on the draw. The teams alternated singles in four and five and again in six and seven as Epping maintained the three-point advantage.
The 2014 Olympic gold medallist Jacobs (7-1) held the hammer coming home, but he ran out of options with nowhere to hide as Epping just needed to make an open hit on one with his last to ice the game.
“We got a fortunate couple steals early and put them behind the 8-ball and they had to play catch up,” Epping said. “They were just on the wrong side of the inch today. They just weren’t getting their rocks in the best positions as we were.”
It bodes well for Team Epping, who now have a weekend off before they begin the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season at the Princess Auto Elite 10 taking place Sept. 26-30 in Chatham-Kent, Ont.
“We’re gearing up for Chatham and can’t wait to get to the Elite 10,” Epping said. “We love the Grand Slam series so we can’t wait to start that.”
The team of Jacobs, third Ryan Fry, second E.J. Harnden and lead Ryan Harnden decided to stick together for another Olympic cycle and jumped out of the gate in their first tournament of the season until they ran into the equally red-hot Team Epping.
Wrana wins 1st WCT title
Sweden’s Team Isabella Wrana emerged victorious in the AMJ Campbell Shorty Jenkins Classic women’s division to claim their first-ever World Curling Tour title.
The 2017 world junior champions (7-1) edged Toronto’s Team Hollie Duncan 5-4 in an extra end of the women’s final.
“It feels a bit unreal because this is our first World Curling Tour win ever,” Wrana said. “We have been runners-up a few times but it feels special to get it now.”
Wrana also grabbed an early lead with a single in two followed by a steal in three to go up 2-0. The teams split singles back and forth in four and five and again in six and seven. The reigning Ontario Scotties champion Duncan (6-2) was able to count the equalizing deuce in eight, however, Wrana prevailed in the extra end.
“We had one miss that made the whole situation really bad,” Wrana said. “But I think we made the right choices in the eighth end trying to fix it.”
The team of Wrana, third Jennie Wahlin, second Almida de Val and lead Fanny Sjoberg entered the week ranked 18th on the World Curling Tour’s Order of Merit. Although they’re just outside of the mix for the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling at the moment, a big win like this should be enough of a boost where they’ll be in sooner rather than later.
“We’re thinking we need to get there to be able to play for Sweden in the future,” Wrana said. “That’s the plan: getting into the Slams.”
Duncan (6-2) is supported by new third Laura Hickey with second Cheryl Kreviazuk and lead Karen Sagle returning from last year’s lineup.
Team Wrana — Fanny Sjoberg, Isabella Wrana, Almida de Val and Jennie Wahlin — celebrate with the Shorty Jenkins Classic trophy. (Photo: Jonathan Brazeau)