Brad Gushue and his team from St. John’s haven’t scored a whole lot, but they’ve scored enough to be just a single win away from the playoff portion of the Meridian Canadian Open in North Battleford, Sask.
Gushue and rinkmates Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker downed Scott McDonald and his Kingston, Ont., entry 5-3 Thursday, improving their record to 2-1 at the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event, which uses a triple knockout format.
In other words, if a team registers three wins before suffering three losses, it will advance to Saturday’s quarter-final round.
Gushue and Co. can do that by defeating Switzerland’s Peter da Cruz, also 2-1, in today’s late draw. Even if he loses today Gushue will have one more shot at a third win in a last-chance draw Saturday morning
So far, Gushue has scored just 13 points is his three games — two of which have gone to extra ends. That’s a 4.33 points-per game average, far less than the 7.7 average the team registered through its other seven events in the 2018-19 curling season.
However, they also have limited the opposition to only 11 points overall this week. And they were particularly stingy in the win over McDonald and their other victory, a 4-3 extra-end decision over Winnipeg’s Jason Gunnlaugson on Wednesday. In each case, they allowed their opponents only single scores in any end.
The loss came in the opening draw as they fell 5-4 to Ontario’s Glenn Howard, again in an extra end. That had to be a case of double frustration, not just because Gushue and his teammates had outpointed the opposition across the board — at least as far as in-game ratings go — but in particular since the Gushue rink has now lost four times to Howard in as many meetings this season.
This is the fifth Grand Slam event of the season, and Gushue already has a title, having taken the crown at the Princess Auto Elite 10 to open the 2018-19 campaign. In the four Grand Slams since then, they’ve made it to the quarter-finals three times and the semifinals once.
They brought a 31-13 overall win-loss season record into North Battleford. However, in the last two Slams — the Home Hardware Canada Cup in Estevan, Sask. and the Boost National in C.B.S. — the Gushue rink had a combined record of 7-6.
But Gushue says a lengthy break over the Christmas holiday — he hasn’t played since the National ended Dec. 16 — has him feeling good about his game for the new year.
“I didn’t start throwing until after New Year’s,” Gushue told Jonathan Brazeau of the Grand Slam of Curling website (thegrandslamofcurling.com). “It really helped, from my body’s standpoint, getting that (recovery).
“After a couple days practice, I was able to get it back pretty good, so I feel comfortable. I feel healthy, so I’m looking forward to the second half.”
Not every member of the team got the extended break. Gallant and partner Jocelyn Peterman were runners-up in the Qualico Mixed Doubles Classic, held in Banff, Alta, earlier this month.