John Epping shoots a stone during the 13th draw of the Pinty's Grand Slam of Curling Tour Challenge in Regina. (Anil Mungal)

Epping, Gushue & Walstad top Tour Challenge table

September 8, 2017, 8:57 PM

REGINA — Toronto’s John Epping needed a dicey win to wrap up the Tour Challenge round robin with a 4-0 record.

Epping edged Kyle Smith of Scotland 7-6 in an extra end during Draw 13 Friday.

With Smith sitting two counters, Epping knocked one out and just nudged the other to bring out the measuring stick.

“I thought it was us but everybody else thought it was them so I knew it was going to be pretty close,” Team Epping lead Tim March said. “You’re always a little nervous.”

Epping opened with a deuce in the first and stole one in the second to grab a 3-0 lead. The tables turned though as Smith scored a deuce in three, forced Epping to one in four and counted another couple in five to make it all square at 4-4.

The teams alternated pairs of points in seven and eight to force the extra end. Epping finishes as the second seed and plays Niklas Edin of Sweden in Saturday’s quarterfinals.

“It feels good,” March said. “We’ve put a lot of work into getting ready for the season and we’re seeing it pay off. Hopefully, we can go on a little run in the playoffs.”

Smith heads home empty-handed with a 0-4 record.

Tour Challenge: Scores | Final Standings | Draw Schedules | TV Schedule

Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., plays Saskatoon’s Steve Laycock, Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., takes on American John Shuster, and Norway’s Steffen Walstad goes up against Pat Simmons’s team from Winnipeg in the other three quarterfinal matches.

Gushue closed out with an 8-3 victory over Peter de Cruz (1-3) of Switzerland and Walstad defeated John Morris (0-4) of Vernon, B.C. 6-5 to also finish round-robin play with 4-0 records.

The reigning world champion Gushue scored a single in the first, stole one in the third and three in the fourth to lead 5-0 at the break. De Cruz battled right back with a three-ender in five. Gushue hit and stuck for one in a bizarre sixth end. Both teams had rocks sitting on the edge of the rings, requiring one measurement to rule which was closer and another to see if it was in or out. Gushue’s rock was nearer but was determined to be outside the house.

“Visually it looked like they were on, but we think the rings are a little large and it turned out it was just barely out of the rings,” Team Gushue second Brett Gallant explained. “The first time I’ve ever seen that happen. First, you have to measure to see who’s closest and then you have to bring the stick around to see if they’re on because if they’re on and you use the other stick first you’re going to move the rocks. Unusual but there’s a first time for everything.”

Team de Cruz’s fourth Benoit Schwarz was locked on a guard with his last in seven, giving up two, and the teams shook hands.

“It’s good to stay on the roll that we’re on,” Gallant said. “It’s tough, we had a bit of a lead early on in that game but with the five-rock rule and the ice it’s a little bit tricky. We had to battle to hang on to it and made some good shots in that seventh end and we were able to set up the steal.”

Glenn Howard of Penetanguishene, Ont., played the spoiler eliminating Calgary’s Kevin Koe 6-2. Both teams are out with 1-3 records.

NOTES: The Tour Challenge is the season-opening event of the 2017-18 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling calendar and runs through to Sunday at the Co-operators Centre at Evraz Place. … Winners of the Tier 1 division receive invites to the season-ending Pinty’s GSOC event, the Humpty’s Champions Cup, running April 24-29 in Calgary. … Winners of the Tier 2 division earn berths to the following Pinty’s GSOC event, the Masters, taking place Oct. 24-29 in Lloydminster, Sask.