Brad Gushue and Brett Gallant bump fists during the 2017 Meridian Canadian Open men's final in North Battleford, Sask. (Anil Mungal)

TBT: Gushue golden at Canadian Open

January 4, 2018, 8:14 PM

Throwback Thursday (TBT) digs through the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling archives to reflect on the historic moments of the series. This week we take a look at Team Brad Gushue’s stellar record at the past four Canadian Open tournaments.

Team Gushue has done quite alright at the Meridian Canadian Open in recent years.

Gushue has reached the men’s final at the tournament in four consecutive seasons winning the championship in 2014 and again last year. Of course, it’s all a coincidence (is it really?) but it is impressive how Gushue somehow finds his way into the title picture at this one.


2013 Canadian Open — Nov. 13-17; Medicine Hat, Alta.

Before we proceed, check the date on this one: It was right after Team Gushue — skip Brad Gushue, third Brett Gallant, second Adam Casey and lead Geoff Walker — fell short at the Olympic pre-trials losing in the second qualifier (thus one win away of making the Roar of the Rings) to future gold medallists Team Brad Jacobs.

A 1-2 start at the Canadian Open was less than ideal and Team Gushue regrouped winning its next couple games to qualify for the playoffs. The St. John’s, N.L., crew faced Team Kevin Martin in the quarterfinals. Interesting to note Gushue agreed to join the Edmonton-based squad as an alternate for the then-upcoming Canadian Olympic curling trials. Gushue, who beat Martin 7-6 in round-robin play, scored four points in the eighth end to take the rematch 7-4.

Single steals in the first and third ends propelled Gushue to a 4-2 victory over Team Jeff Stoughton during the semis and into the final against top-seed Team Kevin Koe.

The two battled back and forth to the final frame with Koe maintaining hammer control coming home. Although Gushue put him in a difficult spot with three counters, this is Koe we’re talking about here. It’s never a good idea to make Koe attempt a ridiculous shot because, well, he does it. Koe came through in the clutch, as usual, making an incredible in-off to score the winning single and capture the Canadian Open title 5-4 for his Calgary-based squad.

What Gushue said: “We started off with the big disappointment of not getting through the pre-trials and to be quite honest the motivation here was pretty low and it showed on Thursday when we lost two out of three games. We had a good conversation Thursday night and basically said we’re out here now, let’s give it 110 percent. The way our team turned around on Friday and the way we performed even today was a true sign of how resilient our team is and how competitive even though our Olympic dreams ended.”


2014 Canadian Open — Dec. 9-14; Yorkton, Sask.

The new Olympic cycle brought roster changes to many teams including Gushue with 2006 Olympic gold medal teammate Mark Nichols returning after a couple years with Stoughton. The shuffle saw Nichols slot back into his previous role at third with Gallant sliding over to second and Casey getting cut. It’s worked out OK so far. Gushue captured the first Grand Slam championship of the season — the second of his career and first since January 2010 — at the Masters that November.

The Canadian Open changed preliminary formats from round-robin (five games) to triple knockout (three-to-five games depending on how fast you qualify). Gushue ended up going 3-2 again as his team qualified through the C brackets where the islanders found their sea legs while staving off elimination. This time Gushue started out 2-0 but lost the A-final to Team Mike McEwen and dropped the B-final to Jacobs. A 6-4 win early Saturday morning over John Morris (skipping Koe’s former team) clinched a playoff berth with both quarterfinals and semifinals taking place later that day.

Gushue sprinted through avenging the Jacobs loss with a 7-5 victory in the quarterfinals and completed a comeback to defeat defending champ Koe 5-4 in the semis. After Gushue made it all square with a deuce in seven, Koe held the hammer in the eighth end (hmm, deja vu) but had to draw this time and rolled too heavy.

That set the stage for the final against Yorkton-born Steve Laycock and his Saskatoon squad. Again, it was a see-saw battle and Gushue held the hammer coming home this time around. Down by one and with a point in his pocket, Gushue was not satisfied with simply tying the game and having to steal in an extra. He went for it and drove his last stone in for the 6-5 win.

What Gushue said: “I’ve won a couple Slams, I’ve won some World Curling Tour events and obviously the Olympics and the (Canadian Olympic) trials but the excitement after that last shot — with the exception of probably the trials — that was probably the most excited I’ve gotten after a curling shot. It just didn’t feel like we deserved a win but we had a shot to win and it was a really, really tough shot. To pull it off and for the guys to sweep it in as perfectly as they did, wow, it was pretty cool.”


2015 Meridian Canadian Open — Dec. 8-13; Yorkton, Sask.

Fresh from winning the previous Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling tournament, the National in November 2015, Gushue rolled right through to the Meridian Canadian Open final qualifying A-side in the triple knockout and defeating Team Brendan Bottcher 6-2 in the quarterfinals and Team Reid Carruthers 5-2 in the semifinals. The only problem was another team running just as red-hot undefeated into the championship game: Toronto’s Team John Epping.

Epping was on fire in the final shooting 100 percent and hitting raises from every angle. It’s not that Gushue had a bad game — 90 percent and a team average of 85 — but when your opponent is shooting the lights out that doesn’t leave much margin for error. Epping scored two sets of deuces and a three-ender to win 7-4 in seven ends.


2017 Meridian Canadian Open — Jan. 3-8; North Battleford, Sask.

The Meridian Canadian Open was pushed back a month (hence no tournament in 2016) but kicked off the calendar instead. While it was mid-season for most, it was just the second event of 2016-17 for Gushue, who was sidelined for the first three months due to a hip/groin issue. Nevertheless, Gushue was in mid-season form.

Gushue had already qualified for the playoffs at the tournament via A and C roads, so making the playoffs through the B brackets was at least something different.

The lone loss in the A-side came against familiar foe Jacobs and it was another battle of the Brads in the semifinals (Gushue beat Laycock 5-2 in the quarters) and a bizarre one at that. Gushue never held the hammer but managed to secure a 4-0 shutout stealing two in the fourth and back-to-back singles in six and seven.

His final opponent this time was Sweden’s Team Niklas Edin, winners of two Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling titles already that season and entering with an unblemished record.

Whereas Epping was unstoppable the year before, Gushue pitched a perfect game here throwing 100 percent with a team average 95. After forcing his opponent to one point in the first, Gushue capitalized on an Edin error to score four in the second and cruised from there. Gushue made a beauty in the sixth end to count three and put the game out of reach 8-3.

That should have brought out early handshakes but instead we headed to the seventh. It amounted to garbage time although it was worth it to see Edin bust out a Stoughton spin-a-rama.

What Gushue said: “It was a fun week. I thought we played really good. The best part for me, personally, was I started to get more comfortable and confident out on the ice. Leading into this event I wasn’t very confident at all. Definitely, as each game went by I gained more and more confidence, I think the guys gained some more confidence in me and we just started rolling. Great game today. I thought we played really well and controlled it. The same last night. Hopefully, we can continue that for a few more months.”

Hopefully?! Sarcastic understatements are our job. Gushue continued the momentum for the next few months alright claiming his first career Brier title in his hometown and capturing the world championship in Edmonton by beating Edin in the gold-medal match.


The 2018 Meridian Canadian Open runs Jan. 16-21 at Encana Arena in Camrose, Alta. Full-event and weekend passes plus single-draw tickets are now available for purchase at Camrosegsoc.goigniter.com.

Watch on Sportsnet or online/mobile at Sportsnet NOW (Canada) or gsoc.yaretv.com (international).

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