Brad Gushue picked up the place he left off on the Canadian males’s curling championship on Friday evening.
In his first sport with the complete foursome of Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker since profitable the Tim Hortons Brier a yr in the past, the defending champs confirmed few indicators of rust in a scientific 6-2 win over Ontario’s John Epping.
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Canada shot 91 per cent as a workforce whereas Gushue threw an ideal 100 per cent, numbers he felt could have been somewhat too sort.
“To use a golf expression, there’s no pictures on the scorecard,” Gushue mentioned with a smile. “There were some throws out there that were pretty gross. But we got a lot out of every shot.
“I feel we solely had one shot [that] we did not get something out of. That was a purpose that we had coming into this sport and I believed we executed that very effectively.”
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It was the long-awaited return of top-flight domestic men’s curling after a season limited to just a few bonspiels due to the pandemic.
The opening draw at the Markin MacPhail Centre came on the heels of a successful Canadian women’s curling championship, the first of seven events to be played in a so-called bubble setting at Canada Olympic Park.
In other Draw 1 games, Saskatchewan’s Matt Dunstone dumped Nunavut’s Peter Mackey 10-2, Wild Card Two’s Kevin Koe beat Nova Scotia’s Scott McDonald 7-4 and Quebec’s Michael Fournier edged Greg Smith of Newfoundland and Labrador 7-6.
Gushue’s team played in a couple events last fall in Halifax with substitute players as the Alberta-based Walker remained out west.
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The teams blanked the first three ends as they got a feel for playing on arena ice again.
Gallant made a brilliant triple takeout early on and jokingly waved to the cardboard cutouts stationed throughout the spectator-free arena.
Epping was heavy on a hit-and-roll attempt in the fourth end that set up a Gushue draw for two.
Ontario settled for a single in the fifth before a Gushue hit and roll set up another deuce in the sixth end. The teams shook hands after a Canada single in the ninth end.
“That was enjoyable,” Nichols said. “The leadup to this has been powerful by way of the isolation and stuff like that. So to get on the market and play a aggressive sport — it felt precisely how I believed it could.
“There was no easing into it or anything. We were just right back to it so it felt really good.”
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Ontario completed at 82 per cent total and Epping was at 72 per cent.
For most groups, it was their first aggressive sport motion in a number of months.
Some provincial and territorial groups have been in a position to play down in latest weeks, however most rinks have been invited by their respective associations when championships have been cancelled because of the pandemic.
Two extra wild-card entries have been added this yr, boosting the sphere to 18 groups. Gushue’s workforce had an computerized entry as returning champions.
Players are staying in a resort throughout the highway from the WinSport Arena and are being examined for COVID-19 frequently. Coaches and workforce alternates wore masks on the tip benches.
Electronic hog-line sensors on the stone handles weren’t used for the second straight occasion resulting from gear delays because of the pandemic. The honour system was in impact.
Three attracts have been scheduled for Saturday. Preliminary-round play continues via Thursday evening.
The high 4 groups in every pool will advance to the two-day championship pool beginning March 12. The high three groups will transfer on to the playoffs on March 14.
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The second- and third-place groups will meet in a day semifinal with the winner to play the first-place workforce for the championship.
The Brier winner will earn $100,000 of the $300,000 complete purse, return as Team Canada on the 2022 Brier in Lethbridge, Alta., and earn a berth within the Olympic Trials in November at Saskatoon.
The champions may even symbolize Canada on the April 2-11 world males’s curling championship within the Calgary bubble.
Kerri Einarson received the Scotties Tournament of Hearts final weekend. She’ll symbolize Canada on the April 30-May 9 ladies’s world curling championship, which was added to the bubble calendar Friday.