Brad Gushue, Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker with the Pinty's GSOC National trophy in Oshawa, Ont. (Photo: Anil Mungal)

Gushue tops Carruthers to win National title

November 15, 2015, 4:35 PM

OSHAWA, Ont. — Brad Gushue said at the start of the National he felt good enough to play in the event following his frightening fall on the ice just two weeks ago at the Masters.

As it turned out, Gushue was good enough to win his fourth career Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling championship following a 7-2 victory over Winnipeg’s Reid Carruthers in the men’s final Sunday at the General Motors Centre.

It’s the third Grand Slam title in the past two seasons for the team of Gushue, third Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant and lead Geoff Walker. The foursome from St. John’s, N.L., captured the Masters and the Canadian Open last year.

Gushue, the 2006 Olympic gold medallist, said he got better as each day went on through the tournament.

“I had a few ups and downs, some games were better than others but I felt really good today, which is good,” he said. “I feel way better than I did on Tuesday night when we showed up. Time is going to heal it for sure and physically I feel really good.”

“I think the only issue for me right now is the psychological part and I’m still a little tentative and stepping over rocks and moving around rocks,” Gushue added. “I’m a little more careful than I normally am but I think with more time on the ice that will go away and I’ll get back to myself. I’m probably more of a danger to myself acting the way I am right now but as far as throwing the rock I feel pretty good. I felt comfortable out there today and the last couple days.”

Things in the final almost went sideways early for Gushue. Carruthers had a chance to score four in second but he needed to make a tricky tap back to eliminate Gushue’s stone. Carruthers’ shooter rubbed off of one of his stones and he wasn’t able to get the takeout and Gushue stole one to opening the scoring 1-0.

“It was a very scary second end,” Nichols said. “We dodged a huge bullet and played a little bit better, they still put on some pressure on us. We avoided some bad ends and weathered the storm and we were kind of able to break through.”

Gushue also expressed the “weathered the storm” sentiment as it became their mantra.

“The first four ends, Geoff really struggled. We didn’t get much set up and Reid was all over us and that game could have been all over in the second end if he made that shot. Even in the third end it looked like they were going to score another big end but we just tried to weather the storm, really, and kind of got through,” Gushue said. “We used that phrase a couple times throughout the first four ends and then once the fifth end started we kind of got our mojo back a little bit and to play the way that we’re capable of playing.

“Even in the seventh end we dodged another bullet. We’re a little fortunate to win. We played pretty good but definitely had some luck on our side for sure.”

Carruthers blanked three and faced two with his last shot in four but made the open draw to the button to score one and tie it.

Gushue capitalized in the fifth end after Carruthers missed on a double attempt, drawing to count two and go up 3-1.

Carruthers was forced to a single in six and Gushue got through the guards with his last shot in seven for a tap to retake the two-point lead. Carruthers faced three with his last shot in the eighth end but was wide and missed the mark.

Gushue admitted he had “sea legs” during their Tuesday night practice to start as he had only hit the ice three days prior while resting and recovering from his head, neck and back injuries sustained at the Masters. After the doctor gave him the all clear, Gushue didn’t want to lose out on getting the chance to play in the National.

“I love the feel, the atmosphere, it’s kind of where I have the most fun curling and that’s why I rested as much as I did to make sure I was ready to get the okay to get back here this week because missing an opportunity to play in an arena, in a Grand Slam on great ice against the best teams in the world would have been pretty disappointing,” Gushue said. “It would have been hard for me to watch this game at home so I’m much happier playing in it.”

Team Gushue have been on a tear this season winning five titles on tour as well as finishing runner-up in the Tour Challenge Tier 1 event in September. Gushue capped the National with an overall 6-1 record, sustaining his lone loss to Calgary’s Kevin Koe, who prevailed in a rematch of the Tour Challenge final during the round robin.

Carruthers lost his first round robin match to Toronto’s John Epping and cruised through to the final winning five consecutive games.

The team of Carruthers, third Braeden Moskowy, second Derek Samagalski and lead Colin Hodgson were playing in their first Pinty’s GSOC final together. Coincidentally, Carruthers won a National championship with Nichols while the pair played on Jeff Stoughton’s team in 2013.

Gushue and Nichols won their first Grand Slam title together at the National in 2010.

“These are the best fields in curling right now,” Nichols said. “They’re so hard to win and it always feels nice when you come out on top.”