It is John Epping versus Brendan Bottcher, and Rachel Homan versus Silvana Tirinzoni in the men’s and women’s finals of the Meridian Canadian Open in North Battleford Sunday at the Civic Centre.
A total of 19 curling teams started the day Saturday, but only four were left standing by the time the day's play was done. There were more than a few surprises in the games Saturday night.
In his semifinal, Epping surprised everyone simply by blowing out Niklas Edin of Sweden, scoring four in the first end, two in the third, one in the fourth and two in the fifth for a 9-1 win.
Epping’s team had begun Saturday still fighting to get in the playoffs, but had completely turned it around by day’s end. He pointed to better play, such as “putting eight shots in a row together in an end... and we played a great game yesterday in the C semi to get to the C final, so we had a bit of momentum going into today and we kept that going.”
The other men’s game was tight throughout. With Gushue leading 5-4, Bottcher had last rock and he drew to score two, and sent the big-name Gushue team packing.
“We’ve really been feeling it, especially in the two games today. It feels good to beat those two teams,” said Bottcher, referring to the highly-ranked Gushue and the Brad Jacobs rinks.
“We like to think of ourselves as one of the top teams in the world and we’re slowly proving that.”
For Eve Muirhead’s team from Scotland, they were surprised with their first defeat of the week as Team Tirinzoni won 8-4.
Tirinzoni built an early 3-0 lead; then, after Muirhead scored two in the fourth, Tirinzoni added three more in the fifth. The final blow came in the seventh when Team Tirinzoni scored two, at which point Muirhead conceded.
“We just made a few more shots,” Tirinzoni said afterwards.
“They were struggling at the beginning and then they got behind 3-0. Of course it’s easier to defend a lead than to come from behind. They played great all week, but tonight was probably not their best — lucky us that we didn’t draw into the hot Muirheads that were playing this morning.”
In the Homan-Roth match, Homan scored two in the first, Roth answered with two in the second, and then Homan scored three in the third for a 5-2 lead, from which Roth could not recover. The final score was 6-4; Roth ran out of rocks in the final end.
How they got there:
The day started with the last three men’s C qualifiers in the morning draw, to set the field for the quarterfinals. Brad Jacobs defeated Matt Dunstone 8-2 to send the Regina rink home. John Epping won over Peter De Cruz 5-3 to end the defending champions’ run, and Niklas Edin finished off Braden Calvert 7-5.
With the 16 playoff participants set, the quarterfinal round began with four games on the women’s side.
Once more, the focus of North Battleford fans was on the hometown Robyn Silvernagle rink as they found themselves in a rematch with Tirinzoni in one quarterfinal.
Silvernagle scored one in the second, but the wheels came off soon after. Tirinzoni scored two in the third and then stole two in the fifth to take a 4-1 lead, to the groans of the audience at the Civic Centre.
In the seventh, Tirinzoni’s team delivered the knockout blow by scoring two more to take an insurmountable 6-1 lead. Silvernagle shook hands, and Tirinzoni’s team from Switzerland was on to the semifinals.
A title at the same event where Silvernagle was a volunteer statistician two years earlier would have made for a storybook ending for the team from Twin Rivers Curling Club. But it was not to be.
“We definitely struggled a little bit today,” said Silvernagle to reporters. “We knew they were going to come out firing after yesterday’s game, we just didn’t play where we needed to play.”
In other quarterfinal games, Rachel Homan scored one in the eighth end to eke out a 4-3 win over Casey Scheidegger. Nina Roth and her USA team advanced with a 6-3 win over Laura Walker, and Eve Muirhead of Scotland delivered an early KO of Chelsea Carey, scoring seven in the first end en route to a 10-3 victory.
Men’s quarterfinals followed in the afternoon: the first to be decided was between Brad Gushue and Glenn Howard, with Gushue winning 6-2. That set up their semifinal match with Brendan Bottcher who advanced over Brad Jacobs 5-2.
John Epping advanced with a 6-4 win over Kevin Koe, and Bruce Mouat vs. Niklas Edin went to the extra end, where Edin prevailed on his last shot, 5-4.
That set up the semifinals matchups played on Saturday night before the large and enthusiastic North Battleford audience.
Now, just one more day of top-flight curling remains at the Civic Centre. It begins at 11:30 a.m. with the men’s final between Epping and Bottcher, which will be televised on CBC.
At 3 p.m. is the women’s final between Homan and Tirinzoni, with that contest on Sportsnet.
Follow our Twitter feed @TheNewsOptimist for updates of this weekend’s action. Also check out the videos posted at our Facebook page of post-match interviews with Silvernagle and Tirinzoni after their game.