It’s a crowded house at the 2015 Home Hardware Canada Cup presented by Meridian Manufacturing, but that’s not a reference to any elaborate on-ice predicament. It’s what the men’s standings look like.
There are only two wins separating top to bottom on the men’s table. No team has more than four wins and everyone has at least two wins heading into the final two draws tonight (6:30) and Saturday morning (8:30).
Mike McEwen of Winnipeg brought previous leader Kevin Koe back to the pack by edging the Calgary team 5-4. Koe is 4-2 and tied with fellow Calgarian (and Glencoe Club member) Pat Simmons for first place. McEwen, the defending Home Hardware Canada Cup champion, improved to 3-2 heading into tonight’s draw (6:30 p.m.) in the eight-team round robin.
“It was a huge game for us, kind of a must win. We put out a good effort, the guys from lead to skip we all played really, really well and earned the win,” said McEwen third B.J. Neufeld. “We’ve got some good momentum going into tonight’s draw.”
Toronto’s John Epping and Simmons staged a strange battle which Simmons stole his way to an 8-6 victory. Epping took the early advantage with a four in the second end for a 4-1 lead. But after forcing Simmons to take one in the third, Epping then coughed up a pair of two-point steals and all of a sudden it was 6-4 Simmons. They were back to square one when Epping scored two in the seventh at 6-6. In all, Epping surrendered five points on steals.
That put Simmons into a first-place tie with Koe at 4-2.
“That was our key game,” said Simmons second Carter Rycroft. “We got the hammer (in the first end), we got the one and then they got the four and we were ‘Oh, man this is not good.’ We battled hard and now we’re 4-2.
“You never going through this unscathed that’s for sure.”
Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., the 2014 Olympic champion, is tied for third with McEwen at 3-2 after suffering a 7-6 defeat at the hands of Winnipeg’s Reid Carruthers (2-4).
The eight-team men’s draw wraps up with a final draw Saturday (8:30 a.m.).
Brad Gushue of St. John’s kept his team in the playoff hunt with a big shot to score four in the eighth end to seal a 9-3 victory over Saskatoon’s Steve Laycock (2-4) to move to 2-3.
“We’re on life support right now, but we have a chance. You don’t want any more than three losses, and even at three losses right now I think we still need some help. But things are looking good actually for that help,” said Gushue, the 2006 Olympic champion and current leader on the Canadian Team Ranking System.
“That means our fate’s in our own hands. We still have to play two great teams (Epping and Jacobs) who are a challenge. This is definitely a grind of a week mentally. You never get those softer games like you can get at a Brier or a longer championship so it’s a challenge and hopefully we’re up to it.”
The standings are so crowded it will be a while before Gushue will start to scoreboard watch.
“If we get down to the last draw and still need help, maybe you keep the occasional glance over your shoulder, but at this point we still need to win games,” said Gushue.
On the women’s side, Sherry Middaugh (Coldwater, Ont.) looked like her playoffs were toast until she stole two in the ninth and one in the 10th for a 7-5 victory over Kristy McDonald of Winnipeg.
“Oh goodness, I struggled. I struggled with draw weight until it really mattered and then it was just one of those where it was just lack of focus on a couple of shots and you just can’t do that,” said Middaugh.
With the win Middaugh moved into a third-place tie with defending Scotties Tournament of Hearts Canadian women’s champion Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg at 3-2.
However, to reach the playoffs Middaugh will have the tall task tonight of taking on Ottawa’s Rachel Homan, who clinched a bye into Sunday’s final by winning her fifth straight at the Home Hardware Canada Cup and 25th consecutive on tour earlier Friday.
“With a loss it was impossible (to make the playoffs). Right now we’re just hoping for a tiebreaker. We’ve got to beat Rachel and they’re a pretty tough group, but at least you know it’s in our hands.”
Jones will take on second-place Val Sweeting of Edmonton (4-1). The second and third-place teams will face off in Saturday’s semifinal (1:30 p.m. MT).
The Home Hardware Canada Cup continues with a draw tonight at 6:30 (all times MST) and Saturday (8:30 a.m., 1:30 and 6:30 p.m.).
TSN/TSN2 and RDS2 will provide complete coverage of the Hardware Canada Cup. Click here for the complete schedule
The Home Hardware Canada Cup format calls for the men’s and women’s teams to play a three-day round robin, with the first-place teams advancing to their respective finals on Sunday, while the second- and third-place teams meet in semifinals on Saturday, after any required tiebreakers, to determine the other finalists.
For ticket information for the 2015 Home Hardware Canada Cup, go to www.curling.ca/2015canadacup/tickets/
This story will be posted in French as soon as possible at www.curling.ca/2015canadacup/?lang=fr