Brad Jacobs at the 2016 WFG Masters in Okotoks, Alta. (Photo: Anil Mungal)

Jacobs tops Nichols to advance to WFG Masters semis

October 29, 2016, 4:09 PM

OKOTOKS, Alta. — Reigning Olympic champ Brad Jacobs surged to score a deuce in the final end and power his Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., squad to a 6-5 victory over Team Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., in the WFG Masters quarterfinals Saturday.

Team Gushue — skipped by longtime third Mark Nichols while Gushue is on the mend — couldn’t eliminate Jacobs’ pair of stones sitting at the back of the 12-foot circle as their attempts rolled clear through the uprights.

Nichols opened with hammer, but Jacobs put the pressure on straight from the start sitting two counters and forcing the seven-time Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling champion to make an open tap for just a single in the first end.

Team Jacobs blanked the second and counted shot stone in a crowded house prior to their last in three, but were unable to get it into the house for a deuce, coming up light, and settled for just the single.

Jacobs stole one in four as he sat shot stone and Nichols came up light on his throw.

Nichols bounced back in five with a tap for two and almost looked to get three, however, a measurement determined the stone was outside of the rings.

That may have been the turning point as Jacobs countered with a pair of his own in the sixth end as the cat-and-mouse chase for the lead continued. Nichols took two more in seven to lead by one without hammer coming home.

It was an interesting chapter in the “battle of the Brads” this time with Gushue out of the lineup to start the season due to a lingering hip issue.

Nichols, who won Olympic gold with Gushue in 2006, has skipped the team into the playoffs in six consecutive tour events. Charley Thomas of Didsbury, Alta., filled in at vice during the WFG Masters.

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Jacobs will now face top-seed Steve Laycock of Saskatoon, who advanced with a 5-3 victory over David Murdoch of Scotland.

Murdoch started the tournament 2-0 before dropping back-to-back round-robin games Friday. The 2014 Olympic silver medallist bounced back big throwing 100 percent in the tiebreaker match later that night to top reigning world champ Kevin Koe of Calgary and qualify.

Niklas Edin of Sweden is also through after beating Toronto’s John Epping 6-4. Edin pulled ahead with a two-spot in the second and never relinquished the lead adding a steal of one in three, limiting Epping to another single in five and counting another deuce in six to lead 5-2 with two ends to play. Epping picked up a pair in seven to close the gap to one, but Edin iced the game tacking on another point coming home in eight.

The WFG Masters was the return for Team Epping second Pat Janssen, who had surgery three weeks ago to repair a fractured orbital bone he sustained when he fell face-first onto the ice during a curling clinic the team was conducting.

There will not be a repeat for reigning champion Mike McEwen, who fell 5-3 to Reid Carruthers in an all-Winnipeg rink match. Carruthers broke a tie with a deuce in seven and McEwen, a six-time Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling champion, was unable to comeback in the final frame.

Edin and Carruthers clash in the second men’s semifinal match (7 p.m. MT on Sportsnet ONE & Sportsnet NOW).

Coming up next, Allison Flaxey of Caledon, Ont., faces on EunJung Kim of South Korea in the quarterfinals (3 p.m. MT on Sportsnet), with Binia Feltscher and Silvana Tirinzoni meeting in an all-Swiss rink battle, Anna Hasselborg of Sweden taking on Calgary’s Chelsea Carey and Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones playing Ottawa’s Rachel Homan.

Flaxey rode the steal train to victory over Einarson in Saturday’s morning tiebreaker.

NOTES: The WFG Masters is the first of seven events on the 2016-17 Pinty’s GSOC schedule. … The event is also the first of four majors in the series alongside the Boost National, Meridian Canadian Open and WestJet Players’ Championship. … The WFG Masters runs through to Sunday at Pason Centennial Arena.