BRANDON, Man. – The two ex-roommates battled it out for a lot more than just bragging rights Sunday night, and this time it was Reid Carruthers that has a lot to talk about.
The 31-year-old Winnipeg skip made a delicate hit-and-stick to score three in the ninth end in defeating the Brad Gushue team from St. John’s, skipped by Mark Nichols 8-5 Sunday to capture the 2016 Home Hardware Canada Cup, presented by Meridian Manufacturing, men’s title.
Carruthers and Nichols were roommates for two curling seasons (2012-14) while playing for Winnipeg’s Jeff Stoughton – Carruthers was the second while Nichols played lead. Many a time since Nichols has been the victory, but not this time.
With the win, Carruthers, third Braeden Moskowy, second Derek Samagalski, lead Colin Hodgson and coach Dan Carey secure a berth to the 2017 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Canadian Curling Trials in Ottawa next December to determine Canada’s four-player representative at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Korea. The only other men’s team with a Trials berth already sewn up is Calgary’s Kevin Koe.
Carruthers called the victory in the same arena where he won the 2015 provincial men’s title the biggest of his career as a skip.
“With this field, man. Tough field. I’m ecstatic. I’m almost speechless to be honest,” said Carruthers. “Playing a team like that that’s ranked first on CTRS (the Canadian Team Ranking System) for a reason. They’ve been very, very consistent, the most consistent team all season long.
“We knew we had to play really good, and there was just one big shot that changed the game. It could have gone either way.”
Despite the win, Carruthers feels his team can still be better.
“We didn’t run through this field undefeated. There’s always ways to improve. We’ll have to sit down with Coach and talk about some of the things we did right for a little while and work at some of the things we can do better.”
Nichols was supported by Charley Thomas at third (substituting for Gushue), second Brett Gallant, lead Geoff Walker and coach Jules Owchar.
Nichols and Gushue won the 2006 gold medal in Turin, Italy. That year, Gushue threw last rocks but second Russ Howard skipped while Nichols was the third and Jamie Korab the lead.
Carruthers picks up $22,000 – $14,000 for the winning the final and $8,000 for its four round-robin victories. The Gushue team collects a total of $17,000 including $9,000 for reaching the final.
The victory also means Carruthers will be one of the teams representing North America at the 2017 World Financial Group Continental Cup, presented by Boyd Gaming, to be held in Las Vegas Jan. 12-15.
Carruthers was happier about the trip to Vegas than the Trials berth because he believed his team and Gushue’s will both qualify for Ottawa anyway based on CTRS points.
“For my team that’s never had that international experience, I can’t ask for a better thing,” said Carruthers.
Carruthers forced Nichols to draw to take one in the first end, then had an open draw for two in the second after Nichols missed on the back end of a double takeout. In the third end, Carruthers made a nice raise takeout to sit four to make Nichols draw the four-foot to get his single point for a 2-2 tie.
An attempt by Carruthers to draw the four-foot for two slid long and he had to settle for a single in the fourth to take a 3-2 lead. Facing three in the fifth end, Nichols had to draw the button to tie the game 3-3.
Carruthers made a delicate, soft pick of Nichols’ shot rock to score two in the sixth end to take a 5-3 lead. But Nichols responded with two in the seventh, drawing the four-foot to tie the game for the third time. The game’s first blank end came in the eighth.
Then came the decisive end. Nichols tried to steal by attempting to bury a rock with his last shot but it slid too far and Carruthers was able to punch it out to score a huge three points.
“I wouldn’t say it’s just that shot. We left a few shots on the table through the whole game,” said Nichols. “We battled to get back in it, and we kind of went all or nothing in that ninth end to try to get a steal and my last one was too heavy and not good enough.”
He had a hard time finding the positives out of such a tough loss so soon after it was done.
“I’m pretty disappointed right now,” said a despondent Nichols. “We really, really wanted to win this event.”
The big event the team has its eyes on now is the Tim Hortons Brier because it’s set to be played in their hometown in March. It’s been circled on their calendar for a long time.
“We’ve never got a chance to play in the Brier at home,” said Nichols, who expects to have Gushue back calling the shots at a Grand Slam event next week in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. “This is lifetime opportunity, a chance to show the province and the city off to all curling fans. It’s a chance to show what we’re made of in the biggest event in curling.”
Carruthers’ triumph also meant home-province teams swept the titles in Brandon. Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg won her third Home Hardware Canada Cup women’s title by downing Ottawa’s Rachel Homan 9-5 in the women’s final Sunday afternoon.