Brad Gushue delivers a rock during the Meridian Canadian Open men's quarterfinals on Jan. 12, 2019, in North Battleford, Sask. (Anil Mungal)

Gushue solves Howard in Canadian Open quarterfinals

January 12, 2019, 7:41 PM

NORTH BATTLEFORD, Sask. — The fourth time was the charm for Team Brad Gushue.

The St. John’s, N.L., crew finally figured out a way to beat Team Glenn Howard of Penetanguishene, Ont., this season during their fourth meeting of 2018-19 with a 6-2 decision in the Meridian Canadian Open men’s quarterfinals Saturday at Civic Centre.

Team Gushue, who capped last season defeating Team Howard for the Humpty’s Champions Cup men’s title, had dropped three straight including their triple knockout A Event opener Tuesday night. It was also Gushue’s first playoff win in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling since capturing his 11th title at the Princess Auto Elite 10 in September.

Tied 1-1 at the break, Gushue cracked the game with an open hit for three in the fifth end. Howard’s blank attempt in six failed as his shooter stuck around in the house for a single and Gushue tacked two more points on the board in seven.

The back-to-back Brier winner Gushue goes through to the semifinals (7 p.m. local time / 8 p.m. ET on Sportsnet 360) and takes on top-seed Team Brendan Bottcher of Edmonton in a rematch of last year’s Canadian men’s championship final. Team Bottcher scored four in the first and bounced Team Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., 5-2.

Team Jacobs third Ryan Fry was playing in his first tournament since returning from a leave of absence due to personal reasons.

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Toronto’s Team John Epping and Team Niklas Edin of Sweden meet in the other men’s semifinal.

Epping eliminated Calgary’s Team Kevin Koe 6-4 in a repeat of October’s Canadian Beef Masters final. Koe opened with the hammer but gave up a steal of three in the second end as his last rock wrecked on a guard while facing two and things went from bad to worse as the guard rolled into the house for the trey spot.

After the teams alternated singles, Koe looked to double raise to angle one in with his last of the fifth end but went the wrong way to concede another point and fall behind 5-1. Koe clawed back into the game with a draw for three in the sixth but Epping had the remaining couple ends on lockdown blanking seven and adding an insurance point in eight.

Edin, who finished runner-up at the past two Meridian Canadian Open tournaments, landed on the lid with his last of the extra end to hand Scotland’s Team Bruce Mouat their first and only loss in the event.

The Meridian Canadian Open is the only one of the seven Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling tournaments to feature triple knockout — instead of round-robin pools — where teams must win three games before they lose three in order to qualify for the playoffs through A, B and C Events.

Bottcher and Mouat both went 3-0 through the A-side; Gushue, Howard and Koe qualified at 3-1 in the B Event finals Friday; and Epping, Edin and Jacobs all needed to win last-chance C-side finals Saturday morning. Epping edged out Team Peter de Cruz of Switzerland 5-3, Jacobs scored four in the seventh end to finish Regina’s Team Matt Dunstone 8-2 and Edin clipped Winnipeg’s Team Braden Calvert 7-5.

The women’s semifinals were set earlier Saturday with Ottawa’s Team Rachel Homan facing Team Nina Roth of the United States and Scotland’s Team Eve Muirhead meeting Switzerland’s Team Silvana Tirinzoni.

Homan made the clutch draw with her last shot to shade Team Casey Scheidegger of Lethbridge, Alta., 4-3 and Roth eliminated Edmonton’s Team Laura Walker 6-3. Muirhead scored a seven-ender in the first and punted Edmonton’s Team Chelsea Carey 10-3 while Tirinzoni topped North Battleford’s own Team Robyn Silvernagle 6-1.

Both finals are scheduled for Sunday.

Online streaming is available for all playoff draws at Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and Yare (international).

NOTES: The Meridian Canadian Open is the fifth event and third major of the 2018-19 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season. … Standard Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling rules apply: games are played to eight ends, the five-rock rule is in effect and teams receive 33 minutes of thinking time plus two, 90-second timeouts. … The combined purse is $250,000 with the winning teams earning $30,000 plus berths to the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup.