Toronto's John Epping delivers a stone during Draw 13 at the Humpty's Champions Cup in Calgary. (Anil Mungal)

Epping ousts Shuster in Champions Cup tiebreaker

April 29, 2017, 12:36 PM

CALGARY — Toronto’s John Epping has advanced to the Humpty’s Champions Cup playoffs after ousting American John Shuster 5-1 in Saturday morning’s tiebreaker round.

Team Epping was sharp shooting 93 percent as a unit with second Patrick Janssen earning a perfect score.

Epping now faces Peter de Cruz of Switzerland in the quarterfinals of the season-ending Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling tournament at WinSport Arena.

“We haven’t been playing our best the last couple of months so it’s nice to rebound and make the playoffs,” said Epping, who fell short of the playoff round at the previous three Pinty’s GSOC events. “Hopefully good things can happen.”

The hammer wasn’t anyone’s friend in this game. Epping, a three-time Grand Slam champ, had a shot for two in the first end on an open hit, but his shooter rolled out for just a single.

After Shuster wrecked on a guard with his first skip stone in the second, Epping added to the pile to sit five crowding the four-foot circle. Shuster, who also had one in group, was forced to do some damage control running back an Epping stone to blow up the house like a stick of dynamite. When the dust cleared it was a steal of a couple.

Shuster’s woes continued from there. The reigning U.S. national champ had to hit and stick for a single in three while looking at two counters, but his shooter rolled and Epping stole another to make it a 4-0 game. Shuster blanked the fourth to go back to the drawing board for the fifth, but misfired his last to hand Epping one more point.

A single in six for Shuster broke the shutout and he shook hands as his season came to an end.

“We were steady this morning,” Epping said. “That was one of our best ones this week and I look forward to playing this afternoon.”

Epping edged Shuster in Friday night’s final round-robin draw to bring their records level at 2-2 and force a rematch in the tiebreakers.

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Meanwhile, Rogers Grand Slam Cup champ Niklas Edin of Sweden also advanced with a wild 13-5 win over Saskatoon’s Steve Laycock in the second tiebreaker.

After deuces back and forth to start, Edin scored four in the third to jump back ahead. Laycock narrowed the gap with a three-ender in four. Edin blanked the fifth, extended his lead scoring another pair in the sixth and stole five in the seventh iced the game.

Edin, who has won three Pinty’s GSOC titles this season, will face top-seed Brad Gushue in a rematch of the world championship final.

Gushue cruised to a 4-0 round-robin record to earn the No. 1 spot for the playoffs. The St. John’s skip defeated Edin to capture his seventh Pinty’s GSOC title at the Meridian Canadian Open in January.

Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen meets Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste Marie, Ont., and Calgary’s Kevin Koe clashes with former teammate John Morris of Vernon, B.C., in the other men’s quarterfinal matches. Watch at 6 p.m. ET on Sportsnet One, online at (Canada) and (international).

There will be a new men’s champion at the event after Winnipeg’s Team Carruthers missed the playoffs. Third Braeden Moskowy was skipping the team this week with Reid Carruthers competing for Canada at the world mixed doubles championship. Derek Samagalski and Colin Hodgson also moved up spots in the lineup with new alternate/adviser Craig Savill, a two-time world and 12-time Grand Slam champion, making his debut with the squad at lead.

The women’s side is set with Alina Paetz of Switzerland playing American Jamie Sinclair, Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones facing Ottawa’s Rachel Homan, Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni taking on Jacqueline Harrison of Mississauga, Ont., and Edmonton’s Val Sweeting meeting Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg. Watch at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sportsnet One, online at (Canada) and (international).