Brendan Bottcher, Darren Moulding, Brad Thiessen and Karrick Martin celebrate with the Meridian Canadian Open men's trophy on Jan. 13, 2019, in North Battleford, Sask. (Anil Mungal)

Bottcher wins first GSOC title at Canadian Open

January 13, 2019, 4:44 PM

NORTH BATTLEFORD, Sask. — Brendan Bottcher has started off 2019 right by winning his first career Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title.

Bottcher and his Edmonton-based club capped an undefeated week at the Meridian Canadian Open with a 6-3 victory over Toronto’s Team John Epping in the men’s final Sunday at Civic Centre.

The team of Bottcher, third Darren Moulding, second Brad Thiessen and lead Karrick Martin collected $30,000 from the $250,000 combined purse plus a berth in the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup.

Bottcher was rolling all week entering the final undefeated. Team Bottcher qualified through the A-side of the triple knockout at 3-0 and scored playoff wins Saturday over Team Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and Team Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., to reach their second Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling final this season. Bottcher finished runner-up to Jacobs at the Tour Challenge in November.

“It’s awesome, especially, a couple months ago we got so close in Thunder Bay, I really felt like we had a good chance to win our first one there,” Bottcher said. “We played great all week, and this is what we needed for points and its what we needed to set us up for the rest of the year. It’s just been a good week.”

It boiled down to a game of inches against Epping as Bottcher broke a 3-3 tie in the sixth end with a draw for a deuce that just barely made it. Thiessen and Martin were able to pull the string and get their shooter far enough into the eight-foot circle to outcount Epping’s rock for second stone.

“The sheet was a little trickier today, so it came down a little bit,” Bottcher said. “The guys like that draw most of the way and then we had to pound it to make it look good for TV just to squeeze it in there.

“No, it was awesome, but definitely, that point was huge. It meant that we could sort of play some defence the next couple ends and hopefully round it out.”

Epping had an opportunity to make a circus shot for a multiple score in seven but didn’t get the angles right and instead conceded a steal to fall behind by three coming home. The hole was too deep, however, as an open hit on Bottcher’s last clinched the championship.

The Meridian Canadian Open is the only one of the seven Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling tournaments to use a 16-team triple knockout preliminary format — instead of round-robin pool play — where teams had to win three games before they lost three in order to qualify for the playoffs.

Team Epping took the long road through the C-side needing a victory Saturday morning over defending champions Team Peter de Cruz of Switzerland to advance to the playoffs with a 3-2 record. Epping then added wins over Calgary’s Team Kevin Koe in the quarterfinals and Team Niklas Edin of Sweden in the semis to also make it to their second Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling championship game of 2018-19.

Epping topped Koe for the Canadian Beef Masters in October to earn his fourth title, and third as a skip, in the series.