Team Balsdon (L) and Team Edin (R) celebrate winning the Tour Challenge titles (Photo: Anil Mungal)

Edin wins Tour Challenge for 2nd straight GSOC title

November 13, 2016, 7:23 PM

CRANBROOK, B.C. — It took Sweden’s Niklas Edin almost a decade to capture his first career Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title. He didn’t think it would only take two weeks to get his second.

“Maybe a little longer,” he said with a smile.

Edin defeated Scotland’s Kyle Smith 7-3 in Sunday’s Tour Challenge final to win back-to-back Pinty’s GSOC championships on the season and cash another $30,000 cheque.

The 31-year-old Edin earned his first career Grand Slam two weeks ago at the WFG Masters as the Swedish squad became the first non-Canadian men’s crew to take a title in the series.

He credits the new brush and sweeping rules introduced this season for winning his fifth World Curling Tour event and third in a row to retain the No. 1 spot on the year-to-date and money rankings.

“We’re in really good form and I think the whole new brush situation has just given us so much motivation this season,” he said. “Last year having an injury in Kristian [Lindstroem] and you needed a lot of pressure to get effect with those brushes and we couldn’t really do that. He had a really bad shoulder and had surgery so we didn’t really get the chance last year we felt.

“Now coming back with everyone on equal terms again we really want to show what we can do on the ice and so far it’s going, I don’t want to say easy, but we’re playing really well and we’re seeing mistakes from the others teams that we never saw last year so we know we can fight against any team out there now.”

Rookie second Rasmus Wrana is now 2-for-2 in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling series after joining the Edin team this season to replace the injured Lindstroem.

Edin and Wrana are joined by third Oskar Eriksson and lead Christoffer Sundgren. The team didn’t get out of the gate hot in Cranbrook as they dropped their first two games before rebounding with six straight must-win victories including a tiebreaker against reigning Olympic champ Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., to qualify for the playoffs.

Edin points to that match in particular as the turning point as there was nothing left to lose and it was either go big or go home.

“We kind of knew 2-2 would be good for at least a tiebreaker. We had a really tough start against [Steve] Laycock and [Mike] McEwen, they’re really good Slam teams, obviously,” Edin said. “We didn’t really figure out the ice and the rocks. It was tricky for all of the teams in the beginning. We played really good in the first game. Probably should have won that one but when we lost and got outplayed by McEwen.

“During that 0-2 start we knew there’s nothing to hold back now and have to go all-in and really have to win those last two and then when we did that it gave us a confidence boost. We knew that if we could beat Jacobs in the tiebreaker we might win this event. That was the turning point I think, beating Jacobs in the tiebreaker. That gave us the confidence to win the event.”

The 2013 world junior champ Smith, playing in his first Pinty’s GSOC final, held the hammer in the first end and drew to the lid for a single.

Edin hit Smith’s shot rock on the nose out for a deuce in the second to take the lead and never relinquished it from there.

The two-time world champion Edin stole one in three when Smith made a runback but missed the counter.

Edin dropped a three count in the fifth to pull away. Team Smith sweepers Cammy Smith and Kyle Waddell were able to drag their last into the four-foot circle for a single in six and Edin matched with another point in the seventh to bring out the handshakes.

As he’s now a veteran of these championship games, Edin felt confident he could pull off the win over Smith in the first Pinty’s GSOC all-European men’s final.

“Kind of knowing we are the better team in this final and we know that we have a good record against that team. They’re playing really well but coming down to a final like this but it’s their first final as well so I think it’s a lot about mentality and having been there before,” he said. “We knew if we just take it easy, we didn’t want to risk too much but then when we get a chance we can try and grab it. We would get our chances.

“They made a few mistakes that they normally don’t do and we capitalized on them. I think if we played them again in the final it would be a way tougher game but this time we felt we had it in our hands if we played it like we did this week.”

Team Smith also includes third Thomas Muirhead, the younger brother of four-time Grand Slam winner Eve Muirhead.

Elsewhere, Greg Balsdon of Kingston topped Glenn Howard of Penetanguishene 5-4 in the all-Ontario Tier 2 men’s final.

Balsdon has earned a berth to the 2017 Meridian Canadian Open to play among the elite ranks.

Howard gave up steals of one in the first and two in the second then settled for just a single in three after his last rolled too far. Balsdon matched with a point in four to retake the three-point lead.

Howard took two in five and forced Balsdon to a single in six. The 16-time Grand Slam winner Howard blanked seven to hold the hammer coming home with a shot to score two and tie it, however, his shooter rolled heavy.

“I missed my last shot by a couple millimetres and then he doesn’t even have to throw his last one,” Balsdon said. “You always want to make the shot to win the game. You hate seeing someone miss a shot for us to win but it was exciting. This is a huge deal for us. It gets us into provincials, gets us obviously into the Slam in North Battleford and possibly the Champions Cup.”

For Balsdon it’s been an season of perseverance as he started the year returning from hip surgery only to lose third Don Bowser to a knee injury during their first tournament of the season in Oakville, Ont. A plethora of spares have filled in with second Jonathan Beuk moving up to third while Scott Chadwick has remained at lead. Balsdon had David Staples playing second during the Tour Challenge.

Earlier Sunday, Edmonton’s Val Sweeting earned her second career Pinty’s GSOC championship with an 8-4 victory over Michelle Englot and her Winnipeg-based team in the women’s Tier 1 final.

Jacqueline Harrison of Mississauga edged Krista McCarville of Thunder Bay 5-4 during an extra end of the Tier 2 women’s final. Team Harrison also earned a spot in the 2017 Meridian Canadian Open.

The 2016-17 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling series continues with the Boost National running Dec. 6-11 at the Essar Centre in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.