Valentin Tanner, Claudio Paetz, Benoit Schwarz and Peter de Cruz celebrate with the Meridian Canadian Open trophy. (Anil Mungal)

De Cruz steals to win 1st GSOC title at Canadian Open

January 21, 2018, 8:54 PM

CAMROSE, Alta. — Peter de Cruz is heading into the Winter Games on a high note.

The Swiss Olympic representative finished off an unreal tournament at the Meridian Canadian Open by capturing his first career Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title.

Thievery was key for de Cruz as he stole one in the seventh and two in the eighth to swipe a 5-3 victory over Niklas Edin of Sweden in Sunday’s final at Encana Arena.

Team de Cruz collected $30,000 plus a spot in the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup running April 24-29 at Calgary’s WinSport Arena.

“Incredible, like actually unbelievable,” de Cruz said. “When we got into this week, we didn’t have a great week at the Continental Cup so we were like, ‘OK, so we’re going to have to pick our game up a bit and hopefully qualify.’

“When we qualified we knew that we had two really tough games to make the final and then playing the No. 1 team in the world. They completely outplayed us, I think, in the first half and then we just started to put rocks in places that made their game a little more complicated and we just got a little lucky in the end.”

“Thrilled,” fourth Benoit Schwarz added. “The only thing I can say, in a Grand Slam final you never know when it’s going to be the next one so you really want to take the opportunity and we made the most of it in these games.”

De Cruz, who throws second stones, and Schwarz are supported by third Claudio Paetz and lead Valentin Tanner. While the order is unorthodox, Schwarz threw an outstanding 96 percent proving exactly why he tosses the last brick.

“He played really well. He saved us in at least two or three ends,” de Cruz said. “They played really well. They completely outplayed us. We didn’t manage to keep the shooters in the house. We were always the wrong side of the inch but we just said we’re going to stay patient, try to get a deuce somewhere, we didn’t but just try and stay close and you never know what can happen.”

Steals bookended the scoreboard with Edin pirating a point in the second as Schwarz jammed the triple takeout and gave up one.

Schwarz was sharper from there drawing things level in the third.

The three-time Pinty’s GSOC title winner Edin played a straight run on his own guard to take out de Cruz’s counter and rolled the raised stone to the side of the house and completely covered under a line of corner guards. Schwarz drew to cover the button and Edin had several runback options but opted for the straight hit while avoiding the guard and his shooter stuck around to score a deuce for a 3-1 lead.

De Cruz was held to a single in the sixth — Schwarz made the high-pressure hit against three counters — and stole the equalizer in seven as Edin was forced to a single but over-curled and landed right on top of the de Cruz’s counter on the button.

Schwarz tapped his own to lie shot rock in the four-foot circle and right on top of an Edin stone. Edin had a couple options with the final shot of the game — draw to the button or nose hit the shot rock — but clicked off of Schwarz’s last stone, pinballed down into the couple and rolled away with de Cruz’s two counting.

“Honestly, I liked the situation in the four-foot,” Schwarz said. “We really wanted to keep that for the last shot and have a good last one and fortunately we had. It’s a very, very tough hit, I think, and fortunately for us, he missed. That’s probably the only shot he missed, I guess.”

De Cruz posted a 6-1 record in the tournament. His only defeat came against 2014 Olympic gold medallist Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., in the A-finals of the triple knockout preliminary round. Team de Cruz qualified through the B event and defeated Edmonton’s Team Brendan Bottcher, skipped by super spare Steve Laycock, to earn their first playoff win ever Saturday and then avenged the 6-3 loss over Jacobs in the semifinals winning 5-2.

“The first game against Jacobs was actually a lot closer than it looked on the scoreboard,” de Cruz said. “I think we probably deserved to win that one. Overall, we probably had one of the best weeks of all the teams. Maybe we deserved to win over the week.”

Earlier Sunday, Calgary’s Chelsea Carey also captured her first title in the series defeating Winnipeg’s Michelle Englot 10-5 for the women’s championship.

The Meridian Canadian Open was the fourth Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling tournament of the season and the series resumes with the Princess Auto Elite 10 running March 15-18 at Winnipeg’s St. James Civic Centre.