Brad Gushue (centre) shoots a stone as sweepers Geoff Walker (left) and Colton Lott (right) get ready to sweep during the second draw of the Humpty's Champions Cup on April 23, 2019, in Saskatoon. (Anil Mungal)

Gushue shuts out Muyres to start Champions Cup

April 24, 2019, 12:40 AM

SASKATOON — Team Brad Gushue dished out a tennis-style bagel to open their title defence in the Humpty’s Champions Cup.

Gushue, from St. John’s, N.L., stymied local favourites Team Kirk Muyres with a 6-0 shutout during Draw 2 action Tuesday night at Merlis Belsher Place.

Although Gushue was limited to just one point in the first frame, the 11-time Grand Slam champion put down the picket fence and rolled away with single steals in five consecutive ends.

“Obviously, we were pretty lucky,” Gushue said. “We got into a couple tough situations and I was able to make a good shot and force Kirk into a tough shot and fortunately for us, he missed. That’s how two of the steals happened.

“The other ones we had good ends set up and really left him with little or no shot. A bit of luck, a bit of good shots and yeah, a good win.”

Team Gushue has a secret weapon this week at second with Manitoba’s Colton Lott filling in for Brett Gallant, who is overseas representing Canada at the world mixed doubles championship in Norway. Lott, who is fully kitted up with his own Team Gushue jersey and blue pants, slides out in his province’s famous tuck delivery and can fire bullets down the ice giving Gushue some new arsenal options.

“I said to the guys it’s like having a new toy at Christmas,” Gushue said with a smile. “Nothing against Brett but Brett can’t throw it five or five-and-a-half seconds like Colton does. We got him to throw one of them in that game and it’s fun to see come at you because it’s such a weapon that there’s not a whole lot of people in the game have and can throw it as hard and as straight as he does.

“It’s going to change our strategy a little bit this week when you know you’ve got a weapon like that because you know you can do a lot more.”

With his shot rock in the first surrounded by Muyres’ stones, Gushue opted to throw his last away rather than risk giving up points. Muyres wrecked on a guard in the second to give up the first steal and his runback in the third went through the hole untouched. That brought out the measuring stick and led to another point on the board for Gushue.

It only got worse for Muyres from there as he nudged his own stone in four but still came up short of outcounting Gushue’s shot rock. The teams shook hands to end the game early after Gushue added additional steals in five and six.

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Elsewhere, Regina’s Team Matt Dunstone scored two in the eighth and stole in the extra end to edge Team Tyler Tardi of Langley, B.C., 7-6.

In the women’s division, Team Jamie Sinclair of the United States stomped Team Min Ji Kim from South Korea 9-3. A wild start saw the teams trade three-enders and Sinclair added another trey in the third.

It was all Team Sinclair from there following the Gushue strategy of single steals in three straight ends for early handshakes.

“It was a fairly aggressive game, I think, and a lot of rocks in play, so definitely those three threes stand out on the board,” Sinclair said. “We struggled with the ice a little bit at the beginning, so I think that also contributed to the high numbers. I think we just got a better grip on the ice a little bit sooner than them so we were able to capitalize a little bit.”

Vicky Persinger, who won the Players’ Championship with Team Sinclair last season, has returned to the lineup following the retirement of lead Monica Walker. Persinger is filling it at second with Taylor Anderson sliding over to lead stones.

“It’s great to have Vicky back,” Sinclair said. “I know the chemistry with her. I know how to ice her. She’s just a great teammate and we’re having a lot of fun out there.”

The three-time reigning U.S. champion Sinclair is also playing banged up after falling over a rock and injuring her hip during the worlds last month in Denmark.

“I’m all taped up so I’m walking kind of funny mostly just because of the tape,” Sinclair said. “I’m just taking it game-by-game. Hopefully, I can last the whole week.”

Team Robyn Silvernagle of North Battleford, Sask., defeated Team Elena Stern of Switzerland 6-2.

World women’s champions Team Silvana Tirinzoni of Switzerland topped world junior women’s champions Team Vlada Rumyanceva of Russia 8-5.

Round-robin action resumes Wednesday at Noon CST at Merlis Belsher Place.

Broadcast coverage begins Thursday at 2 p.m. ET / Noon CST on Sportsnet with online streaming available via Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and Yare (international).

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.