The Pinty’s Grand Slam has rolled back into North Battleford for six days of curling at the Civic Centre.
The Meridian Canadian Open began at 7 pm Tuesday night with five games, all on the men’s side. The rest of the week promises to showcase 32 of the best men’s and women’s curling teams in the world.
This is the 17th year for the Meridian Canadian Open and it will be the second time in three years that the event has been held in North Battleford.
Teams in the field include those of world champion and Pinty’s Cup champion Jennifer Jones from Winnipeg, Man., 2018 Olympic gold medalist Anna Hasselborg of Sweden, the event’s defending champions Chelsea Carey of Calgary, Alta., and Peter De Cruz of Switzerland who won last year at Camrose, Alta., the team of Rachel Homan who are former world champions and former Pinty’s Cup champions, and Brad Gushue from Newfoundland who is the defending Pinty’s Cup champion. Casey Scheidegger’s team, which won the North Battleford event two years ago, is back for another shot at the title.
The Robyn Silvernagle team from North Battleford is included in the field as well.
This is the fifth event in the Pinty’s Cup series this season, following the events held in Chatham, Ont., Truro, N.S., Thunder Bay, Ont., and Conception Bay South, Nfld. Going into North Battleford, Team Gushue led the Pinty’s Cup standings on the men’s side with 27 points, followed by Kevin Koe at 26 and Brad Jacobs at 24.
On the women’s side Rachel Homan comes into North Battleford with a commanding lead at 40 points, compared to 29 for Hasselborg and 24 for Jones.
Wednesday through Friday will see full days of action at the Civic Centre in the triple-knockout format, with both mens and womens teams competing. Sportsnet will begin its televised coverage of the event Thursday at 11:30 a.m. for the triple-knockout rounds.
Quarterfinals and semifinals were set for Saturday. Sunday action sees the men’s final scheduled for 11:30 a.m. on CBC and the women’s final is set for 3 p.m. on Sportsnet and Sportsnet NOW.
TUESDAY NIGHT’S ACTION:
The five games scheduled for Tuesday were all on the men’s side. The top story was the rough start for both of the men’s teams in action from Saskatchewan.
On sheet A, Alberta’s Kevin Koe hammered Saskatoon’s Rylan Kleiter, with Koe scoring six in the fourth end en route to a 10-1 win.
Over on sheet B, John Epping took an early lead over another home favorite, Saskatoon’s Kirk Muyres, with Epping getting out to a 6-0 lead. Muyres’ team finally threw in the towel after five ends for a final score of 8-1.
It was “just Christmas rust,” said Muyres. “The boys played pretty good. I struggled a lot, and that’s usually what happens, when your skip doesn’t play good you don’t win. And that’s what it was here.”
Despite their lopsided nights, both skips enjoyed the backing their teams received in the Battlefords.
“We love it, all the fans cheering, and it gives us a little bit more energy when we’re out there,” said Kleiter.
“This is what you play for, you play for moments in big arenas with the crowd on your side,” said Muyres.
“It’s too bad we couldn’t give them a little more to cheer about tonight. But like I said, we will throughout the weekend.”
In other action from Tuesday, on sheet C Scotland’s Bruce Mouat broke a 5-5 tie with Kingston’s Scott McDonald by scoring three in the eighth end to win it 8-5.
On D, Jason Gunnlaugson of Winnipeg and Sweden’s Niklas Edin had a tight back and forth contest, with Edin scoring three in the eighth to win 7-6.
Finally on sheet E, in the battle of curling titans between Ontario’s Glenn Howard and Newfoundland’s Brad Gushue, the game was forced into extra ends when Gushue scored one in the eighth to tie it at 4-4.
In the ninth, with Gushue lying four, Howard’s last shot landed perfectly in between two Gushue rocks to score the point, and earn Team Howard the 5-4 win.
Action was set to resume Wednesday morning with the women’s teams taking over four of the five sheets. The hometown Robyn Silvernagle team were not scheduled to be in action until 11:30 a.m. when they took on the team of Tracy Fleury from Manitoba.
Stay tuned to the News-Optimist for updates as we cover the Meridian Canadian Open all week. Follow our Twitter feed @TheNewsOptimist for live updates.