PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE — The first of the big guns fell in the Prairie Classic on Saturday evening, as Newfoundland skip and 2006 Olympic gold medalist Brad Gushue and his team were eliminated from the World Curling Tour event in Portage la Prairie after just four games.
Despite a valiant comeback attempt against Russian squad Team Andrey Drozdov, Gushue and his squad couldn’t close the gap, falling 8-5. Both teams were battling to stay in contention, with Gushue still reeling from previous losses to Saskatchewan’s Team Steve Laycock and Manitoba’s Team Jeff Stoughton.
Also in the 5 p.m. draw at Portage Curling Club, Regina’s Team Joel Jordison was pushed out of the Prairie Classic by Toronto skip John Epping and his crew, Russia’s Team Evgeniy Arkhipov bested Norway’s Markus Hoiberg 6-3 to stay in the tournament, and young Stonewall skip Jared Kolomaya survived 8-2 over Winnipeg’s Dennis Bohn rink.
Meanwhile, Winnipeg’s Team Sean Grassie suffered their second loss of the Prairie Classic, going 4-2 against Sweden’s Oskar Eriksson, to fall into the C level of the triple-knockout competition. Joining them there is Winnipeg’s Team Richard Daneault, which fell to Toronto skip Mark Kean and friends.
After that, the stage was set for a Brier final rematch, as Stoughton prepared to face 2013 Canadian champion Team Brad Jacobs in the 8:30 p.m. draw on Saturday, in a battle to stay out of the elimination danger zone.
Jacobs dropped his first game of the four-day tournament on Saturday afternoon, falling 6-1 to a surging Team Brock Virtue in six ends at the Portage Curling Club. The Saskatchewan-based Virtue, who previously beat four-time world champion Glenn Howard on Friday, will now face Manitoba’s own unbeaten Team Mike McEwen at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday night in a battle for one of the first two playoff qualification spots.
McEwen is still undefeated after three, having struck early and held the lead against Team John Morris on Saturday afternoon.
In another A-group battle, Minnesota’s Team John Shuster edged the reigning world champion, Sweden skip Niklas Edin, and 2012 Prairie Classic champ Kevin Koe beat Saskatchewan’s Team Laycock to continue undefeated. Shuster and Koe will now battle on Saturday night for a qualification spot.
The 1:30 p.m. draw on Saturday also featured the first elimination games of the triple-knockout tournament, as the field will narrow from 32 teams to 22 before the tournament continues on Sunday. Out of contention are Gladstone’s Team Geoff Trimble, the Portage Curling Club team skipped by Ryan Hyde, and Winnipeg’s Team Don Nelson, who lost to Chinese entrant Team Rui Liu.
In the morning draw, Stoughton bounced back from a rough Prairie Classic start, putting Gushue 5-1 in just six ends. The win came after Stoughton’s rink stumbled on day one, dropping their first match against Russia’s Team Evgeny Arkhipov, then squeaked out a win in an extra end against Saskatchewan’s Jeff Hartung.
Elsewhere on the sheets at the 10 a.m. Prairie Classic draw, which consisted entirely of teams that had lost one match on the first day of competition, Thunder Bay’s Team Brian Adams Jr. handily put away Saskatchewan’s Team Joel Jordison 8-3 in five ends, and Sean Grassie’s crew routed fellow Winnipeggers in Team Dennis Bohn 6-2 in seven ends.
Kean bested Norway’s Markus Hoiberg 7-3 in seven ends, while Sweden’s Oskar Eriksson put away young Stonewall skip Jared Kolomaya by the exact same score.
Prairie Classic draws continue at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Portage Curling Club. The event continues tomorrow, with the finals slated for Monday.