Weekend round-up: GSOC Canadian Open and Scottish Mixed Doubles

Teams Muirhead and Murdoch both had solid runs in the Grand Slam of Curling Canadian Open in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, while Bruce Mouat and Gina Aitken won the Scottish Curling Mixed Doubles Championship in Braehead.

The Canadian Open, rather than a round robin, had a triple knockout system (A, B and C-Roads – teams had to win three games before they lost three) leading to the playoffs.

In the men’s competitions, Team Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) were handed a tough opening draw, facing Olympic champions Team Jacobs.

Jacobs took a 4-2 lead after five ends, but Murdoch scored two in end six and then stole singles in ends seven and eight for the victory.

Their next opponent was local favourites Team Laycock – it was an extremely tight encounter that was 4-4 going into an extra end, but crucially Murdoch had hammer in the extra and scored one to win 5-4.

That win put them one game away from the playoffs – in their way, Team Gushue.

Gushue held a 5-2 lead into end eight but Murdoch managed to score three to force an extra – the Canadian rink, though, scored two to win the game 7-5 and reach the last eight.

Murdoch were not waiting long to join them however, thanks to a win in their next game against the young Canadians of Team Bottcher.

Bottcher lead 3-2 after four ends, but twos for Murdoch in ends five and eight meant a 6-5 victory and wrapped up a playoff spot.

Also making the playoffs were Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Sarah Reid), who recorded a similar W3 L1 record on the women’s side of the event.

They began with a 5-4 win over Team Carey, scoring twos in ends three and five, before stealing one in end six to put the game out of Carey’s reach.

Their next result was a loss, however, as they were outgunned by world champions Team Pätz of Switzerland.

The Swiss rink scored three in end two, stole two in end three and scored another three in end seven to win 9-3.

That meant the Scots dropped down to the B-Road, where they faced another Swiss test – but this time it was Muirhead who won with a big score.

A three in end three put them in a strong position, strengthened by two in end five and finished off by four in end seven for a 10-3 victory.

That set up a B-Road qualifier against Team Tirinzoni, the third consecutive Swiss opponent for Muirhead, and the Scots started well with a steal of two in end three.

Tirinzoni pulled the game back to 3-2, but a three in end six and a steal of one in end seven secured the win 7-2 and with it a quarter-final place.

Come the playoffs, Murdoch faced Team Carruthers and were on the back foot as early as end two, when the Canadians scored three.

The teams exhanged ones up to end seven, when Carruthers scored two for a 6-3 lead – then running Murdoch out of stones for the win.

Murdoch had fallen then, and Muirhead faced a similarly tough quarter final against Team Sweeting.

In what was a nightmare start for opposing skip Val Sweeting, the Scots took a 4-0 lead after four ends thanks to three consecutive steals of one, their opponents passing up opportunities for a couple of big ends.

Sweeting, undeterred, scored three in end five and two in end seven to bring the game back to 5-5 – but Muirhead held hammer in end eight and scored her one to win 6-5.

The semi finals pitted Muirhead against Team Jones, gold medal winners in Sochi.

The first half of the game was one of forces, each rink taking ones for a 2-2 scoreline after end four.

But Jones turned the screw after that, stealing one in end five and then twos in ends six and seven to win the game 7-2 and knock Muirhead out.

Jones started well in the women’s final against Team Homan, scoring two in end one and three in end three, but steals of one in ends five and six put Homan into a 6-5 lead.

Jones scored two in end seven but Homan replied with a two of their own in end eight to win 8-7 for their third Grand Slam title of an already extraordinary season.

The final match of the event was the men’s final, between Teams Epping and Gushue.

Both teams were unbeaten up to this point, but skip John Epping had been gaining a reputation for pulling off spectacular angle raises.

Gushue were simply overrun by their opponents, who scored twos in ends two and four courtesy of their skip making those raises look simple, before a double takeout scored three in end six – Gushue shaking hands at 7-4.

***

Back in Scotland, the Scottish Curling Mixed Doubles Championship was held in Braehead from Thursday to Sunday.

At stake, the right to represent Scotland at the World Mixed Doubles Championship in Karlstad, Sweden, in April – with increased attention on the discipline following news that mixed doubles curling will be a medal event at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The pair of Bruce Mouat and Gina Aitken topped the round robin, with six wins and just one loss, followed by Lee McCleary/Judith McCleary and Grant Hardie/Abi Brown, both W5 L2.

There was a tiebreaker for the final semi-final spot, with John Duff/Hailey Duff coming out on top against Ross Whyte/Sophie Jackson 8-6.

In the last four, Mouat/Aitken scored three in end three and stole one in end six on their way to a 6-3 win over Duff/Duff.

Scotland’s last representatives at the World Mixed event, the McClearys, were beaten in the other semi, as Hardie/Brown scored four in end four and stole two in end seven to win 9-4.

In the final, Mouat/Aitken had the fast start, scoring twos in ends one and three and stealing two in end four for a 6-1 lead.

However, Hardie/Brown stole three in end six to put themselves right back in it at 6-5.

Mouat and Aitken, though, maintained their composure, scoring one in end seven and stealing one in end eight after Brown’s attempted raise takeout was narrowly off target.

That meant an 8-5 triumph for Mouat and Aitken, securing their place as Scotland’s representatives in Sweden in April 2016.

Bruce Mouat told British Curling afterwards: “It is very special to win a national title and to go on to represent your country at a World Championship is a great honour.

“Gina and I have not had a great amount of practice leading up to the Mixed Doubles but my rink has enjoyed good results so I knew the form was there, even though for the doubles it is different as you have more stones in play.

“Our first few games went well so that helped to have a few wins under the belt, we then had a slight dip on Saturday and in the final I missed a hit in the sixth end and left Gina in a difficult position and our opponents were able to score a three there.

“But my team has a saying which is ‘bin it’ if you miss a shot, which basically means don’t over think it and just move on. Throughout the tournament we have been consistent.”

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