John Epping, David Mathers, Scott Howard and Scott Bailey celebrate after winning the 2012 Players' Championship. (Photo: Anil Mungal)

John Epping stuns Glenn Howard to win Players’ Championship

April 22, 2012, 4:06 PM

SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. — John Epping completed a miracle run at the Players’ Championship to capture his second career Grand Slam of Curling title and first as a skip.

Epping drew to the button with his last shot to lift his team to a 7-6 upset victory over reigning Brier and world champion Glenn Howard in Sunday’s final.

The Toronto-based team of Epping, third Scott Bailey, second Scott Howard and lead David Mathers were the lowest seed in the tournament and their sensational performance earned them $28,000 along with 45.000 World Curling Tour Order of Meri (OOM) points.

“It’s a dream,” Epping said. “This is something you dream of as a kid.”

“When you look at the event I don’t think anyone could pick us to win this and probably a lot of people didn’t pick us to make the playoffs, but we’ve had a good season, we worked hard. We get to go out on such a high and the expectations are going to be probably higher next year and that’s what it’s all about.”

Howard opened the scoring with a single but Epping pulled ahead 3-1 scoring three in the second and never trailed again. Team Howard, from Coldwater, Ont., got a deuce in the third to tie it, but Epping matched in the fourth to regain the two-point advantage and make it 5-3.

The teams alternated singles through five and six and Howard knotted it up 6-6 counting two in the seventh to set up the dramatic final end.

“[Howard’s team is] so good, they come at your all the time,” Epping said. “He left me a little opening, the guard kind of acted of as a guide, and I was lucky enough to make it.”

It was another father vs. son finale with Howard’s son Scott playing on Team Epping. The Toronto-based Team Epping avenged a loss to Team Howard in the World Cup final to open the 2011-12 Grand Slam of Curling series.

Team Epping finished in a four-way tie atop of the round-robin table with a 5-2 record. Epping defeated two-time defending champ Kevin Martin of Edmonton 6-4 in the semifinals while Howard topped Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen 7-3.

Howard, third Wayne Middaugh, second Brent Laing and lead Craig Savill cashed in $22,000 for their runner-up finish plus a $50,000 bonus for taking the Capital One Cup as the team with the most points over the course of the Grand Slam of Curling season. On top of the World Cup victory, Team Howard also claimed the National title this year.

Notes: Sweden’s Niklas Edin missed the tournament due to a back injury. James Grattan of Oromocto, N.B., joined the team at third with vice Sebastian Kraupp moving up to skip. … Brad Gushue’s team had a shakeup after third Ryan Fry was dropped from the squad. Brett Gallant joined the team at second with lead Adam Casey moving to third and second Geoff Walker switching to lead. … Team Jeff Stoughton added Mark Nichols at lead, replacing Steve Gould. Nichols was the longtime third for Team Gushue and won the gold medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics. The St. John’s native did not curl competitively this season.