John Epping delivers a rock during the Humpty's Champions Cup round-robin on April 25, 2019, in Saskatoon. (Anil Mungal)

Epping edges Gushue in extra end at Champions Cup

April 25, 2019, 5:00 PM

SASKATOON — Toronto’s Team John Epping topped Team Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., 7-6 in an extra end during round-robin action Thursday at the Humpty’s Champions Cup.

Epping moved up to a 2-0 record in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season finale while the defending champion Gushue is now at 2-1.

It’s also the final event together for this version of Team Epping as they announced earlier this month lead Craig Savill is moving on while Ryan Fry from Team Jacobs is joining at third. Epping will shuffle the lineup to accommodate Fry as Mat Camm is sliding to second and Brent Laing is going to play lead.

“We want to have a lot of fun but we want to get a lot of wins in there and finish with a bang,” said Epping, who won the Canadian Beef Masters back in October to qualify for the Humpty’s Champions Cup.

It also helps there’s a $250,000 combined purse on the line with the winners cashing in $40,000.

“That’s the added bonus and a little more incentive too,” Epping said with a smile.

Gushue had control of the match to start opening with hammer and converting with a draw for a deuce in the first. After Epping was forced to one in the second, Gushue made a great shot chiseling off of one rock to get into the centre and bump out Epping’s counter to scoop up a single and re-establish the two-point gap at 3-1.

The pendulum swung to Epping’s side early in the second half. A column of alternating rocks were all lined up in the four-foot circle and Epping made the sizzling tap to pop out three of Gushue’s stones and sit three of his own to grab a 4-3 lead.

“That was huge because the end wasn’t really setting up well for us and then he made a great one on his first,” Epping said. “On his last one, he had to make one pretty good in there and it just ended up probably in the worst spot possible and left me a big three.”

The see-saw affair continued as the teams alternated deuces in six and seven with Gushue holding the hammer in the eighth end trailing by one. Epping left an opening for Gushue to draw for the decisive deuce but caught a lucky break as the shot came up short.

Epping was fortunate again in the extra end as he didn’t need to make a heroic shot on his last either with Gushue rolling heavy on the draw.

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Pinty’s Cup champions Team Kevin Koe of Calgary scored three in the fourth and four in the sixth to crush Switzerland’s Team Yannick Schwaller 8-3. Koe climbed to 2-0 while Schwaller sunk to 0-3.

Scotland’s Team Bruce Mouat also moved up to a 2-0 record defeating Regina’s Team Matt Dunstone 6-3. Dunstone dropped to 1-2.

Meanwhile, Ottawa’s Team Rachel Homan slid to the top of the women’s table at 3-0 following an 8-4 win over Team Min Ji Kim of South Korea.

Team Homan captured the women’s Pinty’s Cup as the overall season champions thanks to three consecutive title wins on the season. Homan did not qualify for the playoffs at the Players’ Championship but has already clinched a spot here.

Both skip Homan and second Joanne Courtney are pregnant. Jolene Campbell is subbing for Courtney this week.

“It’s great; Jolene’s fitting in really well,” Team Homan third Emma Miskew said. “It’s nice that she was able to come out here on such short notice and we’re really lucky. It’s day-by-day with Rachel and she’s still playing amazing so we’re really fortunate that we still have her at this time. It’s nice that we know we’ve already qualified when last weekend we didn’t.”

Campbell is fitting in although her first name has helped Team Homan adjust to the switch.

“We started saying Jo and I’m like, Wow, I don’t even have to think about what name I’m saying because she’s sweeping in Jo’s spot on the same side, in the same position,” Miskew said with a laugh. “It’s just Jo for Jo.”

Kim, who qualified as the Pacific-Asia champion, slipped to 0-2.

Winnipeg’s Team Alli Flaxey, with Laura Walker subbing at skip, improved to a 2-1 record after holding off Switzerland’s Team Elena Stern 9-7. The Tour Challenge Tier 2 winner Stern slid to 0-3.

The action resumes at 6 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. CST. Watch on Sportsnet 360 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. … 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.