Bruce Mouat delivers a stone during the BOOST National semifinals on Nov. 18, 2017, in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. (Anil Mungal)

Mouat, Kim reach first GSOC final at National

November 19, 2017, 9:42 AM

SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. — Not only will there be an all-new BOOST National men’s champion, it’ll be contested between two teams playing in their first Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling final ever.

Wildcards Scotland’s Bruce Mouat and Chang-Min Kim of South Korea continued their stunning upset runs through the elite field and will square off for the major tournament title Sunday at the Essar Centre.

Mouat beat Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen in a 6-4 set during Saturday night’s semifinals while Kim, competing in his first Grand Slam tournament ever no less, scored three in the eighth and stole the extra end to shock Toronto’s John Epping 8-7.

Watch the BOOST National men’s final live Sunday at Noon ET on CBC, Sportsnet NOW (Canada) or (international)

The 2016 world junior gold medallist Mouat was almost at a loss for words trying to describe the feeling but said it’s incredible.

“I mean, coming here it’s our second Slam for most of us, so we kind of knew what to expect,” said Mouat, who made his series debut at the 2016 Humpty’s Champions Cup. “We never expected to have easy games and we didn’t get one. It’s just amazing to be in the final of a Grand Slam. It’s weird to say but it’s exciting.”

Mouat won the pre-game shootout for hammer and never trailed taking two in the first. McEwen drew for a deuce in the second end to even things up.

The 23-year-old Mouat opened up a 5-2 lead capitalizing on McEwen’s mistake that left his last rock open for a hit to score three.

“We managed to get the three in the fourth end and keep control,” Mouat said. “It’s always tough with the five-rock rule but we had to play a few good shots to force them to ones. Luckily we managed to do that.”

McEwen was in chase mode from there having to bump his own to hit a counter and send it around the horn and out but didn’t quite get it and when the dust settled it was a steal of one and a four-point gap.

A desperate McEwen fired his last in six hard but only got a single and lost the hammer. McEwen managed to steal one in seven, however, without the hammer he quickly ran out of options in eight and shook hands with three rocks still to play on both sides.

“We managed to keep things clear,” Mouat said. “I think they hit one through they were trying to tap and freeze and just threw it a bit heavy. We had an open hit. They had to make three shots perfect and we had to miss so I think they just conceded from there.”

Mouat went 2-2 in the round-robin with wins over Greg Balsdon and John Morris and losses to McEwen and reigning Brier and world champion Brad Gushue. It was a whirlwind for Mouat from there taking down the giants of the field from defending champ and hometown hero Brad Jacobs in the tiebreaker to qualify, to 2016 Brier and world gold medallist Kevin Koe in the quarterfinals and then upending McEwen, a winner of six Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling titles, in the semis rematch.

“We had Gushue and McEwen in our group so we knew we had to play well just to get out of our group because we had Morris and Balsdon as well,” Mouat said. “Tough group and as soon as we got to play Brad Jacobs in front of the home crowd it was a good game to win. We got really pumped for it and just went on a roll from there.”

The Mouat crew features third Grant Hardie, second Bobby Lammie and lead Hammy McMillan Jr. They are only the second Scottish men’s squad to reach a Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling final following compatriot Kyle Smith’s runner-up result at last season’s Tour Challenge Tier 1.

Meanwhile, Kim held the hammer for the entire first half against Epping by blanking the first, giving up a steal of one in the second, blanking again in three and finally counting a couple in four to lead 2-1 at the break.

Epping converted on his first try with hammer scoring three. Kim clawed back to tie it with a deuce in six before Epping made one of his patented angle raises for another trio to seemingly take control up 7-4 heading into the eighth.

Epping’s last coming home appeared to go haywire and opened the door for Kim to make a double takeout and get the equalizer to require an extra end. Epping came up light on his first skip stone in OT, Kim beat the clock with four seconds remaining to draw around and lie shot stone, and then disaster happened for the three-time Grand Slam champion as he fired a runback but missed the counter completely.

Kim, third Se-Hyeon Seong, second Eun-Su Oh and lead Ki-Bok Lee are the first Asian-based team to make it to a Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling men’s final. They went 3-1 in round-robin play with a loss to Epping and clipped Winnipeg’s Reid Carruthers in the quarterfinals.

Team Kim captured the Pacific-Asia championship just last week in Australia and will represent the host nation at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones and Casey Scheidegger of Lethbridge, Alta., meet for the BOOST National women’s championship at 4 p.m. ET. The recent Masters winner Jones (6-0) won her 13th consecutive Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling game clipping Calgary’s Chelsea Carey 6-5 in the semifinals while Scheidegger held off Tracy Fleury of Sudbury, Ont., 7-4. Watch on Sportsnet, Sportsnet NOW (Canada) or (international).

The winners of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling each receive $30,000 from the $250,000 purse plus berths to the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup running April 24-29 at Calgary’s WinSport Arena.