Brad Jacobs shoots a stone during Draw 8 of the Tour Challenge in Regina. (Anil Mungal)

Jacobs clips Carruthers in Tour Challenge Draw 8

September 7, 2017, 5:32 PM

REGINA — Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., outduelled Winnipeg’s Reid Carruthers to take a 7-5 victory during Draw 8 action Thursday at the Tour Challenge Tier 1.

The reigning Olympic champion Jacobs moved up to a 2-0 record with two more round-robin games to go while Carruthers has been eliminated from playoff contention at 0-3.

Both teams battled challenging ice conditions and were unable to execute on game-breaking shots that came down to the wire. Carruthers held the hammer coming home in the final frame trailing by a point but collided with a guard on his last.

“It’s tough ice conditions, there’s no way around it,” Team Jacobs third Ryan Fry said. “It’s tough out there. If it’s a little heavy or if it’s curling a lot or straight, you can manage it. Due to how soft and frosty the ice is, we’re getting a lot of things that happen that shouldn’t happen. Reid had it happen to him unfortunately on his last shot and we were able to steal the win there. You hate to win games like that but you have to take them as they come for sure.”

Carruthers broke a 1-1 tie with a deuce in the fourth although he was looking to split the guard in for three but couldn’t quite get it.

Missed opportunities continued as Jacobs had a chance for a slash double in five to take control of the game, but couldn’t connect with the one in the back and only counted three to take a 4-3 lead.

Carruthers counted two in the sixth and Jacobs again had a chance for a double in to put the match out of reach, but couldn’t quite pull it off and settled for a deuce to stay one point ahead.

Another win will guarantee Jacobs a direct spot into the playoffs.

“Our goal is always to qualify in these events, they’re hard to qualify, so when you get to two wins you’re playing to get two shots to get directly in,” Fry said. “We’re happy we got the win, it’s just unfortunate it had to come off a rock not doing what it’s supposed to do.”

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Meanwhile, Toronto’s John Epping has qualified for the playoffs with a 3-0 record. Epping stole three in the sixth and held on to beat Niklas Edin of Sweden 6-5. The defending champion Edin dropped to a 1-2 record.

“It feels awesome,” Epping said. “Another tough battle out there and we got a break with Niklas in six missing his last. That steal of three was obviously the turning point in the game, but anytime you go 3-0 and can guarantee yourself a spot in the playoffs, you’re pretty happy about that.”

The team has been eager to finally play together at the Tour Challenge after competing against each other on mixed squads in the Everest Curling Challenge last month. Epping also paired up with Team Homan’s Lisa Weagle for the Canad Inns Mixed Doubles event this past weekend and he said both tournaments helped ease into the regular schedule.

“With the season being so early now you need some reps and sometimes it’s tough to find ice in August,” Epping said. “That’s probably what you maybe see a lot this weekend. We just need reps right now to get back into our mid-season form. We want to be mid-season all the time but it’s tough without ice.”

American John Shuster (2-1) scored two in the sixth and stole one in seven to fend off Peter de Cruz (1-2) of Switzerland 7-6.

Norway’s Steffen Walstad improved to 2-0 in his Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling series debut after defeating Saskatoon’s Steve Laycock 8-6. Laycock is now at 2-1.

Pat Simmons and his Winnipeg-based team crushed American Heath McCormick 11-1 in just five ends. Simmons (2-1) scored a deuce in the first, stole four in the second, counted three in the fourth and swiped another pair in five while holding McCormick (1-2) to one point in the third.

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.