Brad Gushue shoots a stone during the Meridian Canadian Open in North Battleford, Sask. (Anil Mungal)

Gushue, Morris & Shuster advance at Canadian Open

January 6, 2017, 4:29 PM

NORTH BATTLEFORD, Sask. — Brad Gushue, John Morris and John Shuster made it through the B-qualifiers Friday to advance to the Meridian Canadian Open playoffs.

Gushue, of St. John’s, N.L., topped Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen 6-4 in a tight match-up between six-time Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title winners.

It’s the third season the Meridian Canadian Open has used triple knockout with Team Gushue qualify a different way each time. Gushue slipped through the C-side en route to the championship in 2014 and went straight through A last season where they finished runner-up.

“We like the triple knockout,” Team Gushue second Brett Gallant said. “You have to be on your game. Usually when you get to the qualifier games you have a really tough match-up. We played really well today, it was probably our best game as a team, all four of us, and just happy to be in the playoffs.”

The 2006 Olympic gold medallist Gushue started with hammer and made an open hit on the nose to score two points. McEwen split the rings in the second to take two back.

The teams alternated singles in the third and fourth ends to keep it tied up 3-3 at the break.

Gushue split the house in the fifth end and made an open tap for another deuce then pulled off a double run to sit two and force McEwen to just one point in six. After a blank in seven, Gushue drew to the four-foot circle with his last in the eighth to add another onto the scoreboard.

“It always seems to bring out the best in both teams,” Gallant said about the heavyweight tilt. “We always know it’s going to be a tough match playing against them so it gets us into it right away. It was a good battle out there.”

Meridian Canadian Open: Scores | Teams | TKO Brackets | Draw Schedule | TV Schedule | Watch Online

Elsewhere, Morris and his Vernon, B.C., team defeated Calgary’s Kevin Koe 6-2. Morris didn’t hold the hammer at all during the first half of the game, which actually sounds a lot worse than what really happened as he led 4-1 at the break.

Morris stole one in the first, took two in the second when Koe double jammed and swiped another point in three when the reigning world champion struggled again. It was just singles back and forth from there as Morris stayed one step ahead and Koe was unable to catch up.

Team Morris second Tyrel Griffith credits lead Rick Sawatsky for setting the pace and allow Morris, who throws third stones, and fourth Jim Cotter to control the match.

“Swat had a heck of a game and set up our rocks really well,” Griffith said. “I managed to get that first rock of mine in a good spot and we had them kind of on the ropes. We kept control of the angles, Johnny had some nice simple shots and so did Jim. Kind of makes it nice when those guys don’t have to throw runbacks and stuff like that. We kept the pressure on them.”

Morris dropped his first game of the tournament to McEwen but won three straight to qualify.

“It feels good to finally come around as a team,” Griffith said with a smile. “The first game we were a little flat and I don’t know, maybe it’s just a new year and maybe we had some extra rum and egg nogs over Christmas but it was good. We’re starting to get on a bit of a roll. That first win was good, second game was better and then this one was our best so hopefully gradually gaining some momentum. Everybody is feeling really good.”

Shuster, of Duluth, Minn., beat Edmonton’s Charley Thomas 7-4. Thomas (2-2) drops to C and plays Saskatoon’s Bruce Korte, who eliminated Canada Cup winner Reid Carruthers of Winnipeg 8-4.

Meanwhile in women’s action, Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones used a big four-ender in the sixth to power past Jacqueline Harrison of Mississauga, Ont., 8-4 and qualify through the B brackets.

Harrison, who earned her spot in the event by winning the Tour Challenge Tier 2, fell to the C group with a 2-2 record.

NOTES: The Meridian Canadian Open is the fourth event and third major of the 2016-17 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season. … Teams must win three games before they lose three in order to qualify for the playoffs. … Winners of the Meridian Canadian Open earn spots for the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup taking place at the end of April in Calgary.