Gushue, Fleury remain unbeaten
Top teams move closer to securing a playoff spot at Olympic trials
Some favourites at Canada’s Olympic curling trials are in their expected spot at the top of the round-robin standings. What’s more surprising is the star power languishing near the bottom.
Unbeaten skips Brad Gushue and Tracy Fleury earned victories Wednesday at SaskTel Centre to move closer to securing playoff spots.
At the opposite end of the table are reigning national men’s champion Brendan Bottcher and defending trials winner Rachel Homan. They were left clinging to faint hopes of weekend play after hitting the dreaded four-loss mark.
“Once the pressure builds to that must-win situation, you start feeling it,” said Team Homan coach Marcel Rocque. “Maybe hanging on a little too tight.”
Homan was light on a draw against three in the fifth end that put opposing skip Laura Walker in full control. After the shot, Homan looked despondently up at the rings on the video screen and let out a deep breath, eventually falling 11-5.
“She hasn’t felt the draw weight very well,” Rocque said. “Not for a lack of effort.”
That end likely dashed Homan’s hopes of leading her four-player team back to the Winter Games after a forgettable debut in 2018.
“We didn’t leave anything on the table,” said Homan, who threw a game-low 62 per cent. “We are giving it everything we have every game. You can’t win all the games and there’s a lot of great teams out here.”
Fleury got a good test from Jacqueline Harrison in a 9-6 extra-end victory that kept her in first place at 5-0. Harrison drew the four-foot and forced Fleury to make a challenging hit for the win.
“It’s nice for us to be able to pull off a close one, just to feel some nerves out there and come out with a win,” Fleury said. “It just gives us a little bit of confidence.”
Gushue was also alone at 5-0 after a comfortable 9-4 win over Matt Dunstone. A first-end deuce gave Gushue an early lead, and he put the game away with three points in the eighth.
“We’re playing good; we’re not playing great,” Gushue said. “We’ve been fortunate, I’m not going to lie to you. We’ve had some misses from skips that we haven’t seen that often.
“So there’s been a little bit of luck. There’s (also) been some timely shots by us.”
Gushue’s side threw a whopping 97 per cent overall, helped by lead Geoff Walker’s perfect game. Another men’s draw was scheduled for Wednesday night.
Bottcher fell to 1-4 after dropping a 9-7 decision to Kevin Koe, now 3-1, who’s looking to get to Beijing after missing the Olympic podium in 2018.
The top three teams at the end of round-robin play on Friday night will advance to the weekend playoffs. A 5-3 record was needed to make the cut at the 2017 trials in Ottawa.
Tiebreakers (if needed) and semifinals will be played Saturday and the finals are Sunday.
The Beijing Games start Feb. 4.