Eight Ends: Edin, Flaxey deliver monster Masters performances
October 31, 2016, 1:52 PM
OKOTOKS, Alta. — The winds of change are blowing through the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling series.
Not one but two new champions were crowned at the WFG Masters with Team Edin and Team Flaxey capturing their first career Grand Slam titles Sunday.
The Edin rink from Sweden also became the first non-Canadian men’s team to win in the series while Flaxey went on an incredible whirlwind 36-hour period from Saturday morning’s tiebreaker through to the championship.
Here are our takeaways from the historic 2016 WFG Masters:
1st End: We The Nordbor
Following two runner-up finishes in the series, Niklas Edin put his name in the record books as the first men’s skip from outside of Canada to clinch a Grand Slam title and he’s been anxiously awaiting the moment.
“It’s been feeling like that for a few years now,” Edin said. “We’ve been the team that could do it. A lot of European teams are really strong but usually we qualify, a lot of us qualify, but then making the semifinals, that’s pretty rare, and then making the final we’re the only [men’s] team that has done that, twice. So third time’s the charm and it felt like we had it coming.”
Edin lost to Brad Jacobs in their first round-robin game with the reigning Olympic champ from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., making a sick shot to score three for the win, a harbinger of what was to come for the entertaining championship game.
The final also came down to the wire. Down by two points in the eighth, the hammer was in Edin’s hands and with the power of Thor he smashed his way through nearly winning the game right there and then forcing Jacobs to make an tricky takeout to avoid giving up the three and require a decisive extra end.
The hammer switched to Jacobs for the extra, however, Edin continued the charge and the human highlight reel made a gnarly angle raise bumping four rocks for shot with his first skip stone to set the table for the steal. Jacobs needed to make an angle raise to get shot, but his raised stone crashed right into a guard and Edin swiped the victory.
Edin earned his fourth title of the season already and sends a statement to the rest of the curling tour that this could be a very strong run for the Swedish squad as they build towards the 2018 Winter Olympics.
2nd End: Rookie Wrana wins in his series debut
While Edin had to wait years before he finally claimed his first Grand Slam title, it took second Rasmus Wrana less than a week. The 21-year-old Wrana joined the squad this season as Kristian Lindstroem needed shoulder surgery this past off-season and Edin wanted a healthy body in the lineup from here through to the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Wrana, fresh out of the junior ranks, made his series debut at the WFG Masters and jokingly said, “That wasn’t so hard,” following his team’s championship win.
Edin praised Wrana’s determination as the rookie is never satisfied with just qualifying for the playoffs.
“Through the whole season, before every event, we’ve been setting goals,” Edin said. “We’ve kind of been a bit more modest, the rest of us, like if we can make the semifinals we’re happy but for every event [Wrana's] like, ‘No, I want to reach the final and I want to win this.’
“Even at the Slam here we got a really tough group so we were really happy if we made playoffs but he wanted to make the final. He’s got a good attitude for the game and he’s playing really well. The more experience on this kind of ice and playing against these teams I think the sky’s the limit.”
Team Edin also includes third Oskar Eriksson and lead Christoffer Sundgren.
3rd End: Flaxey finishes first
Allison Flaxey went from taking two wins in three days during the round-robin portion to taking four wins in two days through the tiebreaker and playoffs.
The Caledon, Ont., native Flaxey stole three victories Saturday over Winnipeg’s Team Einarson in the tiebreaker, No. 1 playoff seed Team Kim of South Korea in the quarterfinals and Team Tirinzoni of Switzerland in the semifinals to set up the championship game against world-ranked No. 1 Team Homan of Ottawa.
Few would have predicted Team Flaxey would be in a position to not only play in the final but score four and take a three-point lead in the fifth end to control the match.
You can’t count Homan out, especially with three ends to go, the five-rock rule in play and a 2:1 hammer ratio in her favour. However, it was Flaxey in charge holding Homan to just a single in six, matching with a point of her own in seven to retake the three-point lead and then run Homan out of options coming home in eight to complete the set. An ecstatic Flaxey toss her broom in celebration and it flew to the next sheet over.
Flaxey, Clancy Grandy, Lynn Kreviazuk and Morgan Court have had success on tour but nothing like this on the Grand Slam stage. They were on the doorstep before, now they’ve kicked it down and crashed the party. It’ll be interesting to see if they can keep the momentum going next week at the Tour Challenge.
4th end: Kreviazuk keeps family name on the trophy
The big winner of the day turned out to be someone who wasn’t even on the same continent: Alison Kreviazuk. The former second for Team Homan, who won back-to-back Masters titles with the club in 2012 and 2013 and now lives in Sweden, was proud to see her younger sister Lynn Kreviazuk add her name to the trophy.
“She’s always set the bar so high so it’s really nice to be able to do what she’s done and to accomplish what she’s accomplished,” Lynn said.
Lynn also has history playing for Team Homan winning a gold medal at the 2007 Canada Winter Games as well as Canadian junior gold and world junior silver medals in 2010.
Meanwhile, Alison also cheered on fiancé Fredrik Lindberg, coach for Team Edin, to victory giving her a 2-for-2 day.
5th End: Caleb Flaxey nearly makes history
Coach Caleb Flaxey pulled double duty this weekend behind the bench for his wife Allison’s team and for Team Jacobs.
Caleb, who won an Olympic gold medal as the fifth for Jacobs, was rink side Saturday from 6:30 a.m. to prep for the tiebreaker all the way until the conclusion of the semifinals at 9:30 p.m., and while he was wiped out in the end he said he’d rather be there than not.
He almost became the first to win two Grand Slams within the span of a few hours, however, Caleb was quite happy going .500 and helping Allison win her first.
Caleb and Allison Flaxey hug after winning the 2016 WFG Masters in Okotoks, Alta. (Photo: Anil Mungal)
6th End: Hasselborg also makes an impact
Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg was playing in just her second elite-level Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling tournament and was definitely a wild card to contend. The team has won two titles on tour this season, but how would they fair on the grand stage on arena ice and under TV lights?
Quite well, it turned out. Hasselborg went on a five-game winning streak through to the semifinals until cooling down against versus Homan.
Hasselborg also made some highlight reel shots that certainly added her name to the title picture. With compatriot Edin getting his first, it’s only a matter of time until Hasselborg is competing on Sundays at the Slams.
7th End: Homan building legacy at the Masters
This was just the fifth time for the women’s division in the Masters and it was the fourth time Homan was playing for the championship.
Homan, Emma Miskew, Alison Kreviazuk and Lisa Weagle won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013. Edmonton’s Val Sweeting took the crown in 2014 and Homan, now with Joanne Courtney playing second, beat the defending champ to earn her third Masters championship in 2015.
Team Homan doesn’t think about things like building a legacy, they’re just focused on winning every event, especially at the Grand Slams, and letting everything else fall into play first. However, it’s hard to deny there’s something special here at the Masters.
8th End: One week to the Tour Challenge
We’re making up for lost time with a quick turnaround to the next Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event, the Tour Challenge, running Nov. 8-13 in Cranbrook, B.C.
The largest tournament in the series features 60 teams split into two tiers. This event is too big for just one building and takes place at Western Financial Place (all Tier 1 games and Tier 2 finals) and Memorial Arena (Tier 2 games from round-robin play through to semifinals).
Tickets are still available for the Tour Challenge, click here for details.