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

Gushue, Walstad set for Tour Challenge final

September 10, 2017, 12:25 AM

REGINA — Brad Gushue’s red-hot run to start the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season has taken him all the way to the Tour Challenge Tier 1 men’s final.

The reigning world champion from St. John’s, N.L., won the latest episode of the “Battle of the Brads” against Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., 5-2 during Saturday night’s semifinals.

Gushue cruised through the round-robin portion at 4-0 throwing two perfect games and shaking hands early every time. The 2006 Olympic gold medallist had a scare earlier in the day during the quarterfinals though escaping with a stolen extra-end win over Sasktoon’s Steve Laycock. Gushue was able to right the ship and return to top form in the semis shooting 98 percent.

“We played a whole lot better in that game than we did earlier today but still had a lot of mistakes,” Gushue said. “The ice has gotten trickier as the week has gone on and I don’t think we’ve been handling it quite as well as we did in the first few games. We made some mistakes but fortunately the other teams we’ve played have been making some mistakes too to give us an opportunity. Tonight was certainly a whole lot better than our first game today.”

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The offence was slow to start as the seven-time Pinty’s GSOC title winner Gushue opened with the hammer and put bagels on the board in the first couple ends. He settled for a single in the third and forced Jacobs to one in the fourth to tie 1-1 heading into the break.

Gushue’s patience paid off in the fifth end as he capitalized to score three points. Jacobs attempted a triple takeout and threw it hard enough to get all the rocks moving but only one managed to leave the rings and allowed Gushue to make an open hit for his trey.

“The shot that he played, I think without the frost he gets at least two of them and maybe three,” Gushue said. “It’s just a break for us really, to be quite honest, to get a three there. I assumed when he threw it we might have a shot for two, a little bit surprised when we had a shot for three but we’ll certainly take it.”

That proved to be the game-changer as Jacobs was held to another lone point in seven. Down by two and without the hammer, the reigning Olympic champion Jacobs sat two counters in the house but with nowhere to hide, Gushue knocked one out to tack on another point and secure his spot for Sunday’s final against Norway’s Steffen Walstad (Watch on CBC at 12:30 p.m. ET).

Gushue finished runner-up in the inaugural Tour Challenge in 2015 in his backyard of Paradise, N.L., and missed the event last year in Cranbrook, B.C., due to a hip/groin issue.

“I don’t know if it’s the one that got away. I’ve only played in it once and we got on a good run and went to the final. It’s nice to be back in the final and we’re going to have to play good tomorrow,” Gushue said. “It’s supposed to be warm tomorrow, so I imagine the frost is going to be there again and something we’ll have to deal with and hopefully we can figure it out a little bit quicker [than Walstad].”

Meanwhile, Walstad also enters the final undefeated at 6-0 and in his Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling series debut no less.

Walstad halted Niklas Edin’s title defence by defeating the Swedish side 6-5 to advance.

The Tier 2 men’s final features an all-Winnipeg match between Jason Gunnlaugson and William Lyburn to be played adjacent to the Tier 1 championship game at the Co-operators Centre.

Gunnlaugson scored two in the eighth to beat Carl deConinck Smith of Rosetown, Sask., 7-6 while Lyburn stole singles in the seventh, eighth and extra ends to edge Edmonton’s Brendan Bottcher 7-6 during the Tier 2 semifinals.

Elsewhere, reigning women’s champ Val Sweeting of Edmonton booked her second straight appearance in the Tour Challenge Tier 1 final with a 6-5 win over Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones.

Sweeting meets Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg, who also scored a 6-5 victory defeating Scotland’s Eve Muirhead to reach the final.

Calgary’s Chelsea Carey and Winnipeg’s Kerri Einarson clash in the Tier 2 final to be played alongside the Tier 1 women’s final (Watch on Sportsnet and Sportsnet ONE, 4:30 p.m. ET).

Both breezed through the semifinals with Einarson overwhelming Binia Feltscher of Switzerland 9-1 and Carey crushing American Jamie Sinclair 11-3.

Tier 2 winners join the elite ranks at the following Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event, the Masters, running Oct. 24-29 in Lloydminster, Sask., with airfare and accommodations provided.