Kerri Einarson (centre) shoots a stone as Briane Meilleur (left) and Shannon Birchard (right) prepare to sweep during round-robin action at the Humpty's Champions Cup on April 25, 2019, in Saskatoon. (Anil Mungal)

Einarson, Bottcher qualify for Champions Cup playoffs

April 26, 2019, 12:39 AM

SASKATOON — Players’ Championship winners Team Kerri Einarson and Team Brendan Bottcher continue to ride the wave into the Humpty’s Champions Cup.

Both clubs captured prestigious Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling titles earlier this month in Toronto and raised their round-robin records at Merlis Belsher Place to 3-0 Thursday to qualify for the playoffs early.

Einarson, from Gimli, Man., downed Team Casey Scheidegger of Lethbridge, Alta., 8-3 while Bottcher beat Scotland’s Team Bruce Mouat 9-5 during the evening draw.

It’s been a smoother road here to the playoffs for Einarson, who had a rough 1-3 start in the Players’ Championship but has now won seven consecutive games in the series.

“It feels great,” Einarson said. “It’s better to get off to a better start rather than having our backs towards the wall.”

Einarson enjoys knowing her team is straight into the playoffs and doesn’t have to worry about any tiebreaker scenarios or crossing their fingers and counting on their draw-to-the-button shootout scores to get them through again.

“It’s much better just relying on yourself to do it rather than on other people doing it for you,” she said.

Einarson had a bit of an uneven start against Scheidegger scoring a three-ender but also giving up a couple of single steals as the game was tied 3-3 at the break.

The short second half was all Einarson though as she buckled down hitting for a deuce in the fifth, forced Scheidegger into a tricky shot in six that resulted in stealing one back and took two more in seven.

Scheidegger (1-2) threw a dart at the wall of guards but didn’t get the granite going in the right directions and shook hands.

“We had a little couple shaky ends where we maybe should have bailed a little earlier and just missed a couple of key shots,” Einarson said. “We figured it out, took control in the second half and really put some pressure on them.”

She added: “A huge win like that, you definitely just keep that momentum going and we feel very comfortable and relaxed.”

Bottcher has had to grind out his victories this week with two extra-end wins and his match against Mouat (2-1) going down to the wire. Mouat held the hammer coming home down by two but his last rock went through the rings untouched.

“I really don’t think we’ve played anywhere near our best curling yet,” Bottcher said. “It’s tough. It’s the last event of the year and no one’s really had practice ice for a couple of weeks. It’s tricky but we’re doing well.

“I thought the game we played tonight was the best game we’ve played so far. If we can keep that trajectory going, we should be in good shape. We’ve got to sharpen up for sure a little bit in the last few games.”

Bottcher plays Winnipeg’s Team Reid Carruthers in their final round-robin game Friday for a chance to not only fine-tune heading into playoffs but also look to remain undefeated to secure a top seed.

“We can go out there tomorrow night knowing we’re in playoffs either way,” Bottcher said. “Obviously, winning guarantees us hammer and some pretty important things going into the playoffs but it’ll be a good game for us to just try and get another step higher than we did tonight in terms of how we’re playing, how we’re throwing it and try and get set up good for the weekend.”

Humpty’s Champions Cup: Tickets | Live Scores/Results | Standings | Draw Schedule | Braodcast Schedule

Elsewhere, Switzerland’s Team Yannick Schwaller defeated Saskatoon’s Team Kirk Muyres 7-5. Schwaller (1-3) ended round-robin play on a high note while Muyres dropped to 0-3.

Team Robyn Silvernagle of North Battleford had the home-province crowd in a frenzy following an 8-6 victory over Sweden’s Team Anna Hasselborg, who have Scotland’s Eve Muirhead subbing at skip. Both teams hold 2-1 records.

Team Jennifer Jones topped Team Alli Flaxey 8-2 in an all-Winnipeg battle. Jones jumped to a 2-1 record with a group game to go against Silvernagle while Team Flaxey, with Edmonton’s Laura Walker subbing at skip, is playing the waiting game finishing the pool at 2-2.

The action continues Friday at 8:30 a.m. CST. Broadcast coverage resumes at 2 p.m. ET / Noon CST. Watch on Sportsnet or online via Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and Yare (international).

Round-robin play runs through to Friday with the top eight teams overall in both divisions advancing playoffs. The quarterfinals and semifinals are set for Saturday with both finals scheduled Sunday.

Notes: The Humpty’s Champions Cup is the seventh and final Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event of the season featuring 15 men’s teams and 15 women’s teams who won high-profile events over the course of the season to qualify. … The total purse is $250,000, split evenly between the men’s and women’s divisions, with the winners earning $40,000. … A new rule is being tested at the event where teams cannot perform tick shots on rocks sitting on the centre line during the eighth and extra ends.