Reid Carruthers shoots a stone during the 2018-19 Princess Auto Elite 10 in Chatham-Kent, Ont. (Anil Mungal)

8 Ends: Carruthers trending in right direction

October 9, 2018, 3:27 PM

TORONTO — Reid Carruthers is a three-time winner of the StuSells Toronto Tankard but no two have been the same.

Carruthers captured his first while playing second for the iconic Jeff Stoughton in 2012 and collected his second when he branched out in 2014 to skip his then-new squad with third Braeden Moskowy, second Derek Samagalski and lead Colin Hodgson.

The 33-year-old from Winnipeg added title No. 3 Monday now throwing third stones, but still calling the shots, with longtime pal Mike McEwen joining the club this season to toss last rocks.

This might be just the beginning for the retooled Team Carruthers, which defeated Team Stuart Thompson of Dartmouth, N.S., 6-5 in an extra end during the men’s final.

“Every team I’ve played on has been unique in its own way,” Carruthers said. “I was the young gun on Team Stoughton, or the young guy per se, with Jeff, Jon [Mead] and Stephen [Gould] and then we added Mark [Nichols] to the mix in year two. I had the team with Braeden, we were the team that no one had predicted to do all that well and we proved year after year to be a top-five team in Canada.”

Although those teams were successful, it appears Carruthers is confident this crew has the potential to reach a whole other level and possibly dethrone Brad Gushue as No. 1 in Canada.

“It was pretty exceptional but now I think I have one of those teams that I know in my own curling career I’m probably trending towards getting to almost a peak as far as peak time and age in my life and also I’ve now had eight really solid years of experience on the men’s tour,” Carruthers said. “I think for Mike too, he’s kind of in the same time zone. This is one of those things that we put together this team to try to win, try to match up with a team like Gushue, who has been pretty dominant the last two or three seasons.”

Indeed, Gushue has had the target on his back in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling during the previous quadrennial and opened this season once again as the man to beat. Gushue won his 10th GSOC title in four years just a couple weeks ago at the Princess Auto Elite 10 defeating Carruthers in the men’s final no less.

1st End: Room for improvement

It may seem like Team Carruthers cruised through the StuSells Toronto Tankard posting a perfect 6-0 record at the Royal Canadian Curling Club but their play was far from perfect needing some gritty victories along the way.

“Unreal. To be honest, we still haven’t really caught a stride yet,” Carruthers said. “It seems like we’re trending in the right direction. I’m still learning tendencies and I think [Mike's] still learning mine but overall, the product that we’ve had on the ice has been pretty solid.”

Carruthers clawed back with a steal in the final frame to clip Edmonton’s Brendan Bottcher in the A-qualifiers to reach the playoffs.

The semifinal showdown versus Kingston’s Scott McDonald featured a missed opportunity to put the game away in the seventh with McEwen eyeing an open hit to score four that went awry losing both the shooter and colliding with another one of their stones in the house to only get two and make it 4-2. Still, McDonald flashed his first skip stone in eight preventing a possible outright win, and needed to make a triple takeout plus score a deuce to force an extra end that he couldn’t quite pull off.

There was some controversy in the final against Thompson as it came down to the eighth end with shot rock appearing to be tied and neither side willing to give up on the measurement.

“The curling gods are definitely in our corner and I’ve got to tip my hat to the Thompson team because they played really well in that game,” Carruthers said.

“It’s not necessarily the way you want to win or lose,” he added. “You always want it to be like a shot that’s made or that sort of thing. I don’t know. There’s definitely a lot of drama in it. They were within two millimetres of being the champions of the StuSells Toronto Tankard and yet it ends up being a tie. We get the hammer in the extra end and play a nearly perfect extra end.”

Team Thompson earned the “giant killers” moniker this weekend squeezing out Glenn Howard of Penetanguishene, Ont., 6-4 in the C-qualifiers for a playoff spot, bouncing Toronto’s John Epping 7-1 in the quarterfinals and Bottcher 7-2 in the semifinals.

2nd End: Carruthers happy for McEwen

Team Carruthers left some points on the table during the final with McEwen’s hit-and-stick attempts in the second and fifth ends rolling out.

Carruthers said he couldn’t have been happier for McEwen to see him come through in the clutch and deliver the winning shot in the extra end.

“I know he was a little frustrated with some of the shots earlier in the game that could have been for extra points. He was making those shots pretty much all week,” Carruthers said. “The one thing I’ve noticed with this team so far is if we’re in those tight, one-point games, we’ve got a really good win percentage in those close games. Whether we have the hammer or not, we seem to just grind it out.”

3rd End: Carruthers on his Champions Cup chances

The StuSells Toronto Tankard men’s tournament carried a strength-of-field multiplier of 7.3793, which places it near the top of the heap for World Curling Tour events so far and in contention for a spot at the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup in April.

Although it’s not guaranteed entry, Carruthers explained the importance of banking a huge win such as this early in the season.

“The Grand Slam tour is exceptional to be a part of,” said Carruthers, who claimed the inaugural Humpty’s Champions Cup in 2016. “You want to go to every event. You have a bit of a tough year and there’s definitely some of the events that you don’t get an invite for. For us to get off to a good start and then also get a pretty solid counter, I think it gives us a pretty solid chance to get to the Champions Cup.”

4th End: Fear the Moose

My pick to win the women’s StuSells Toronto Tankard was a Northern Ontario team, I just picked the wrong one.

While Thunder Bay’s Team Krista McCarville went 1-3 and missed the playoffs, young guns Team Kira Brunton of Sudbury went all the way to win their first women’s title on tour.

Team Brunton actually earned a spot winning the StuSells junior championship last month at Leaside Curling Club and definitely made a splash. Brunton went 3-1 through round-robin play to qualify, clipped Kristen Streifel of Regina 6-5 in the quarterfinals and punted Toronto’s Jacqueline Harrison 8-1 in the semifinals to reach the championship game against Toronto’s Cathy Auld.

Brunton trailed by a point and held the hammer for the final frame to set up an unbelievable seven rocks in play with four counting. She didn’t need to throw her last either as Auld’s final stone went through the rings giving Brunton the 7-4 victory.

Meanwhile, on the men’s side, Sudbury’s Tanner Horgan qualified A-side with four consecutive wins putting a second Northern Ontario team in the playoffs. The two-time Canadian junior silver medallist finished in the quarterfinals losing 8-7 to Bottcher in an extra end.

5th End: You can just walk over

Kerry Galusha’s club from the Northwest Territories may have travelled the farthest distance to get the StuSells Toronto Tankard, however, their coach was at the other end of the spectrum having travelled the shortest.

John Epping just had to make the short jaunt one neighbourhood over from Leslieville to the Riverside club and had plenty of fans in attendance all weekend cheering on his team.

“It’s always nice to play in front of family and friends and get a chance to come out and support you,” Epping said. “Our home club (Leaside Curling Club) is not far from here, too. We had lots of people out to watch this week, it’s just too bad we didn’t perform a little better for them.”

Considering Thanksgiving is for spending with family and friends, the timing and location of the tournament couldn’t have been better.

“Now I’ve got the day off and I’m going to enjoy a turkey dinner with some friends,” Epping said with a smile.

Although Epping fell to Thompson in the quarters, it marked his new-look team’s fourth playoff appearance through four events to start the season. Second Brent Laing and lead Craig Savill, who won 12 Grand Slams with Team Howard, reunited to join Epping and third Mat Camm this season.

“We’re really happy. It’s always better to be qualifying than not qualifying,” Epping said. “There are a few things that we definitely need to tighten up out there but we’ll probably maybe do a little debrief of the first four events and see what we need to do going forward to get even better.”

6th End: Late registration

Team Bottcher was planning on playing in events in Saskatoon and in their hometown of Edmonton to start the season but both fell off the schedule and forced them to scramble as a last-minute entry here.

“We had a couple big tour events out west that folded this year and one of them in Saskatoon didn’t fold until a month-and-a-half before it started,” Bottcher said. “We had already made the decision we were going to start a bit later but then when our first couple events weren’t going to run, we weren’t going to start playing until mid-October, so we had find something.”

Team Bottcher’s semifinal run in their season debut (despite the disappointing loss to Thompson) netted positive remarks from the skip.

“This is our first weekend out here and we played eight games in three days,” Bottcher said. “We made a semi, got some points, made a little bit of money. It is a success for us.”

Although Team Bottcher declined invitations to the Princess Auto Elite 10 and Canadian Beef Masters, they’ll be back in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling for the Tour Challenge next month in Thunder Bay, Ont.

“I’ve already accepted Thunder Bay. … All we’ve got to do is put them a little closer and we’ll be there,” Bottcher said. “The ones on the east coast, it’s cheaper for us to go to Europe and play an event than it is to get out there.”

7th End: Elsewhere on tour

- Another game for Team Kerri Einarson. The all-new Gimli, Man., squad secured its fourth title in five weeks taking Calgary’s Curlers Corner Autumn Gold Curling Classic. Einarson defeated Jennifer Jones’s team 7-5 in Monday’s final. According to CurlingZone, Jones holds an all-time 20-5 win-loss record in head-to-head meetings, but Einarson has won their last four matches including both clashes at this event.

- Sweden’s Team Niklas Edin put up an unblemished 7-0 record through the Swiss Cup Basel. Edin, who also won the title in 2016, scored four in the fourth end during a 7-5 win over Norway’s Team Steffen Walstad in Sunday’s final.

- Sweden’s Team Anna Hasselborg continued their winning ways. The reigning Olympic gold medallists and recent Princess Auto Elite 10 women’s champs captured the Stockholm Ladies Curling Cup. Hasselborg stole three in the second and two in the fifth during a 10-4 rout over Russia’s Team Anna Sidorova in Sunday’s final. Similar to Edin, Team Hasselborg also went 7-0 through their tournament and had previously captured the crown in 2016.

8th End: Fortnight to the Canadian Beef Masters

The draw schedule has now been released for the Canadian Beef Masters taking place Oct. 23-28 at Rath Eastlink Community Centre in Truro, N.S.

Check out the full slate of round-robin matches for the second Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event of the season by clicking here and visit Ticketpro.ca or call 1-888-311-9090 to purchase your tickets today.

Broadcast coverage begins Oct. 25 at 10:30 a.m. ET on Sportsnet and online at Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and Yare (international).

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