Skip Laura Walker shoots a stone during the second draw of the Princess Auto Elite 10 Thursday in Chatham-Kent, Ont. (Anil Mungal)

Walker edges Fleury in shootout at Elite 10

September 27, 2018, 11:17 AM

CHATHAM-KENT, Ont. — Team Laura Walker’s win at the Princess Auto Elite 10 Thursday morning over Team Tracy Fleury was a textbook example of why they say curling is a game of inches.

The match-play game in the second draw of the season-opening Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event at Thames Campus Arena went the distance and required a draw-to-the-button shootout between the two skips to determine the victor.

Walker was looking to land in the eight-foot circle to guarantee the dub but came up a bit short, however, her Edmonton-based team was 1.73 inches closer to the pin than Fleury’s attempt to earn the 1UP win.

“I didn’t think it would be that intense because I knew I only needed the eight-foot but the ice had gotten a little bit slower and I tried to throw it to my sweepers just to be sure,” said Walker, who is originally from Scarborough, Ont. “I threw it to them a little bit too much but they got it for me.”

Fleury opened the scoring stealing the second end when Walker missed the mark with her last shot. Walker turned the tables and bounced back with steals of her own in the fourth and fifth ends to pull ahead 1UP. After Fleury tied it up in six, the teams alternated points in seven and eight to force the shootout.

Both skips were playing their first Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling game with their new-look squads. Walker, who previously threw third for Team Rocque, returned to her skip roots with third Cathy Overton-Clapham and lead Laine Peters (both from Team Carey) and second Lori Olson-Johns (from Team Sweeting).

“It’s always nice to play in the Slams,” Walker said. “The ice was fantastic this morning. We feel good and we’re kind of getting better with every end, so I think that will bode well for us moving forward.”

Fleury, who lives in Sudbury, Ont., linked up Kerri Einarson’s former teammates of third Selena Kaatz, second Liz Fyfe and lead Kristin MacCuish in Winnipeg.

Originally a men’s invitational, the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling added a women’s division to the Princess Auto Elite 10 this season bringing parity across the seven-event series.

Match play rules are in effect where teams compete to win the most ends per game. Points are scored by either counting two or more rocks (with the hammer) or stealing at least one rock (without the hammer). The Princess Auto Elite 10 features three additional unique rules: Stopwatches are banned, tick shots cannot be performed on guards sitting on the centre line until the sixth rock of play, and teams have four minutes of thinking time per end.

“Match play is fun,” Walker said. “There is never a boring end, which is pretty cool. I mean, it’s scary sometimes and your shots are quite hard but it’s a lot of fun.

“The time per end, I just played that at the World Cup with Kirk [Muyres], so I was kind of used to it and actually like it. I think it keeps the flow of the game going a little bit better. It forces you to be decisive. We always had tons of time on my last one so there was never any worries there.”

Princess Auto Elite 10: Scores & Standings | Draw Schedule | TV Schedule

Elsewhere, Team Casey Scheidegger of Lethbridge, Alta., held on for a 1UP victory over Nina Roth’s American team.

In men’s play, it was a double win for Scotland with Team Ross Paterson and Team Bruce Mouat picking up wins.

Paterson toppled Sweden’s Team Niklas Edin 3 & 1 and Mouat defeated Winnipeg’s Team Jason Gunnlaugson 2 & 1.

Teams earn three points for a regulation win, two points for a shootout win and one point for a shootout loss. The top six teams overall, regardless of pools, qualify for the weekend playoffs.

Round-robin action continues at Noon ET with broacast coverage on Sportsnet and online at Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and (international).

NOTES: Winners of the Princess Auto Elite 10 earn $24,000 of the $200,000 prize purse plus berths to the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup taking place April 23-28 in Saskatoon. … Points are also on the line for the Pinty’s Cup, which is awarded to the season champions in the series with a $75,000 bonus for the winners.