A pair of upsets Saturday night set the stage for the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling: Meridian Canadian Open finals.
The first came from Silvana Tirinzoni, who ran away with an 8-4 win over Eve Muirhead.
Muirhead was undefeated entering semifinal play on the back of a commanding week for the rink, who at one point scratched a seven on the scoreboard during an opening end in quarterfinal play earlier in the day to set up a 10-3 win over Chelsea Carey.
While Tirinzoni knew the Scotland-based rink was having a blockbuster week, the upset had no weight on the skips mind. She said the team came into the match with a goal to get the hammer back and managed to do so after the first end.
“It was a good start,” she said. “We knew they were going to be aggressive against us, considering how they played this morning, so we were prepared for that.”
At the beginning of play, Tirinzoni said the ice was performing differently than it had all week, and perhaps to her advantage.
The rink has taken the long road to the final, clawing their way into the championship draw from the C bracket. Tirinzoni said taking this route and coming out on top has boosted the team's confidence heading into Sunday.
“It is just nice that we can play the final tomorrow,” she said.
Tirinzoni will need to get past Rachel Homan to take home the top prize after the Ottawa-based rink came out strong early and held on to punch their ticket to the final via a 6-4 win in seven ends over Nina Roth.
“We got the two and three, which put us ahead … and it looked like they were going to get the two or three back, but we were able to force a one,” Homan said.
With the hammer, Homan maintained the importance of remaining in control and scoring multiples. She hopes to bring “more of the same” Sunday afternoon.
Three sheets over and the featured game of the night, Brad Gushue and Brendan Bottcher kept the crowd on edge in a back and forth bout that came down to the final rock.
With the hammer, Bottcher sealed the deal with a pair of points and bested the 2017 champion 6-5. Bottcher said the final draw path was nearly identical to one he threw in the pregame on the button, “but two hours later, you don’t know if the ice has changed a little or if you are nervous.”
“I am just really proud we stuck with it and made that last one,” he said.
Similarly to Tirinzoni, Bottcher said the ice was playing slower and straighter than any time throughout the week. He pointed to this as an additional credit to the rink’s win, saying as a group, they tend to perform better in under these conditions.
After successfully pushing past two of the top four ranked teams in the world on Saturday, Bottcher hopes to bring the same to his opponent in John Epping — the lone rink standing in his way of the title.
Epping's rink was the first to secure their spot in the penultimate match by making short work of Sweden’s Niklas Edin. A four-point tally in the first end gave the team breathing room early, and a deuce in the third and fifth end, alongside a single in the fourth, lifted them to a 9-1 win.
“Getting a big lead like that is big and fortunate,” Epping said after the win. “We had a couple of good breaks but it is a long game with the five-rock rule to maintain that, especially against a team that can throw it so hard. You never feel safe out there.”
Epping was off the ice before the Gushue and Bottcher sheet had finished, but was impartial when asked who he would prefer to go toe-to-toe with tomorrow morning.
“We will play well and make lots of shots,” he said. “If I can make some big shots than maybe we will have more points than the other team [at the end of it].”
The men’s final starts at 11:30 a.m., while the ladies meet at 3 p.m.
— With files from Brady Lang
On Twitter: @JournoMarr
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