Val Sweeting shoots a stone during the quarterfinals of the Pinty's Grand Slam of Curling Tour Challenge in Regina. (Anil Mungal)

Sweeting, Hasselborg secure spots in Tour Challenge final

September 10, 2017, 1:07 AM

REGINA — Defending champion Val Sweeting has an opportunity to make it back-to-back Tour Challenge titles.

Sweeting advanced to the final of the season-opening Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event with a 6-5 win over Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones in Saturday’s semifinals at the Co-Operators Centre.

The Edmonton native, who enters the final with an undefeated 6-0 record, will play Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg, who also earned a 6-5 victory by defeating Scotland’s Eve Muirhead (Watch the women’s final Sunday on Sportsnet and Sportsnet ONE at 4:30 p.m. ET).

“We’re happy to have a good start to the season,” Sweeting said. “The girls are playing really well. We’re figuring out the ice and that’s what it’s all about, focus on the process and the results are a bonus. We look to have a good game tomorrow and we’re excited to play here in Regina. The fans have been great and it should be a good game.”

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Sweeting, third Lori Olson-Johns, second Dana Ferguson and lead Rachel Brown defeated Michelle Englot’s Winnipeg-based team in last year’s final in Cranbrook, B.C.

After singles back and forth to start, Sweeting made a great double tap double takeout to set up a deuce in the third end and grab a 3-1 lead over Jones, who has won a record seven Pinty’s GSOC women’s titles.

Jones was forced to one in the fifth and Sweeting gained some separation on the scoreboard in the sixth. Jones was unable to fully freeze her last, Sweeting was able to unlock it and stick around for three points and a 6-2 advantage.

“We just kind of stayed patient to keep the rocks around. It was tricky to draw out there today and her last one was caught in the frost and luckily I had a shot for three,” Sweeting said. “It could have easily been a force. Just trying to stay patient and capitalize if you get an opportunity and that’s what we did. It was a good game.”

The 2014 Olympic gold medallist Jones took two in the seventh and sat three counters in the house in eight. It was a no-brainer for Sweeting to opt for the hit over the draw and fired it right on target to only concede one and punch her ticket to the final.

“I wasn’t too sure what the speed was on a draw. It was a little bit pathy out there,” Sweeting said. “Worst case we go to an extra. I think hit there and just roll in a little bit and I was good. Lori called it really well so it worked out.”

Meanwhile, Hasselborg put a pair on the scoreboard in the first and maintained the two-point advantage with the teams alternating singles in two and three and again in four and five. Hasselborg stole two in the sixth to make it 6-2 and then held on from there as Muirhead scored one in seven and stole two in eight, but not enough to force an extra end.

Hasselborg dropped her first game on the opening night of the tournament Tuesday to Englot but hasn’t missed a beat since winning five straight to reach her second career Pinty’s GSOC final.

The foursome of Hasselborg, third Sara McManus, second Agnes Knochenhauer and lead Sofia Mabergs capped 2016-17 reaching the final in the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup but fell to Ottawa’s Team Rachel Homan.

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.

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

Meanwhile, reigning world champion Brad Gushue has made it through to the final of the Tour Challenge Tier 1 men’s division.

Gushue, of St. John’s, N.L., won the “Battle of the Brads” against Brad Jacobs from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., 5-2 during the men’s semifinals.

The seven-time Pinty’s GSOC title winner Gushue finished runner-up in the inaugural Tour Challenge in 2015 in his backyard of Paradise, N.L., and missed the event last year due to a hip/groin issue.

Gushue (6-0) will take on Norway’s Steffen Walstad, who also enters the final undefeated and in his Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling series debut no less (Watch on CBC at 12:30 p.m. ET).

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.

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.