Brad Gushue shoots a stone during the 10th draw of the Pinty's Grand Slam of Curling Tour Challenge in Regina. (Anil Mungal)

Gushue, Jacobs qualify for Tour Challenge playoffs

September 8, 2017, 12:59 AM

REGINA — Reigning world champion Brad Gushue is through to the playoffs at the Tour Challenge Tier 1.

Gushue (3-0) scored five in the fifth end to topple Calgary’s Kevin Koe 8-4 in a rematch of the Brier final during Draw 10 action Thursday evening.

While Gushue didn’t throw a perfect game like he did in his first couple wins of the season-opening Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling tournament, he did pull off a beauty across-the-face double takeout to get his five count.

“The first event of the year, it’s good to be back on the ice and working some kinks out,” said Team Gushue third Mark Nichols, who threw a near-perfect 99 percent. “It’s nice and hopefully we’ll only get better from here on out. I like where we are. I like the way we’re playing and communicating. Hopefully more good things will come over the weekend.”

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Gushue opened with the hammer and split up the rings in the first to set up and score two. Koe came right back with a stellar shot in the second threading the needle and making a double for a deuce to tie it 2-2.

After Gushue was light on the draw for just one in the third, Koe was held to just a single as well in four to keep it tight at 3-3.

That’s when Gushue put the game away in five, Koe counted another point in six and shook hands.

“I thought we put a lot of rocks in good positions the whole game,” Nichols said. “We had a good deuce in the first end and got a few uncharacteristic misses out of them. We had another draw for two in the third that we just missed. We just kind of stuck with it and managed to get a few misses out them in that fifth end.”

Koe, who defeated Gushue in the 2015 Tour Challenge final, now holds a 1-2 record and must win his remaining round-robin game Friday against Glenn Howard of Penetanguishene, Ont., to remain in playoff contention.

Meanwhile, Brad Jacobs (3-0) has also guaranteed his Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., a playoff berth following a 9-4 victory over Saskatoon’s Steve Laycock. Tied 2-2, Jacobs scored four in the fourth to pull away. Laycock got a single in five and steal of one in six, but Jacobs iced the match with a three count in seven.

Laycock ends round-robin play at 2-2 and is guaranteed at least a tiebreaker.

Pat Simmons and his Winnipeg team also came up big in their 9-2 victory over Scotland’s Kyle Smith. Simmons earned a five-ender of his own in the second and scored four in the sixth.

American John Shuster surged in the second half to beat Howard 9-5. After trailing 4-2 after four, Shuster scored three in the fifth, held Howard to one in six and counted a couple in the seventh followed by a steal of two in the eighth.

Simmons and Shuster qualified with 3-1 records while Howard and Smith (both 0-3) have been eliminated from playoff contention.

Winnipeg’s Reid Carruthers (1-3) went out on a high note to spoil John Morris’s team from Vernon, B.C., 9-6. Carruthers scored four in the fourth to grab a 5-3 lead heading into the break. Morris (0-3) added his second three-ender of the game in five, but Carruthers retook the lead with a deuce in six and then stole two in eight.

NOTES: The Tour Challenge 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.