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Three-way tie for first at Home Hardware Canada Cup

BRANDON – It’s getting a little crowded at the top, except maybe underneath Reid Carruthers’ cap, where the occupants are shedding.

Carruthers, 2014 Olympic champion Brad Jacobs and Brad Gushue’s team from St. John’s, Nfld., are all 3-1 to lead the men’s round-robin standings after two days at the 2016 Home Hardware Canada Cup, presented by Meridian Manufacturing.

Carruthers capped a good day by edging Mike McEwen 4-3 in a battle of Winnipeg teams Thursday evening. In the afternoon, his squad of third Braeden Moskowy, Derek Samagalski, second Colin Hodgson and coach Dan Carey clipped Calgary’s Kevin Koe 7-6.

“It was a good game for the spectators. I lost a few more hairs but there’s a reason why I’m wearing a hat,” cracked Carruthers, of the close encounter against Koe.

“After Day 2 we’ve put ourselves in a good spot. We control our fate, we don’t have to hope for teams to do this and that to get us in. So even if we split the games (Friday) we have a chance at least at a tiebreaker. To win both, you never know we just might go direct to the final.

“I fully expect every game out here to be tight games because every team is awesome.”

It was also a double-win day for Jacobs. His team of third Ryan Fry, second E.J. Harnden, lead Ryan Harnden and coach Caleb Flaxey also played it close to the vest until the final two ends before downing Steve Laycock of Saskatoon 6-4. The game turned in the eighth end when Jacobs executed a soft punch-out to score three for a 5-2 lead. The Jacobs team also beat Koe 5-1 in the morning draw.

“Every win here is large and to beat Koe and Laycock today is huge for us and hopefully we can build some momentum and keep going,” said Jacobs. “We’ve got to come out and hopefully make (Friday) our best day so far.

“It is mentally tough. Mentally toughest teams thrive in this type of event. What’s nice about it is it’s not an 11-game round robin followed by playoffs. We’re just going to leave it all out on the ice tomorrow and hopefully it’ll be good enough to sneak us into the playoffs.”

Mark Nichols shows his frustration during a loss to John Epping on Thursday. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Mark Nichols shows his frustration during a loss to John Epping on Thursday. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Gushue’s squad, skipped by Mark Nichols while Gushue rehabs an injury, fell back to the pack with an 8-4 loss to previously winless John Epping of Toronto. The strength of the field and the short round robin means even Epping’s team is in the playoff mix; three teams will play past the round robin.

“We needed one, we were desperate,” said Epping. “We hadn’t played our best this week and then tonight we were definitely better. Just to stay alive, I know we’ll be in the mix (Friday). I know it’s a bit of a long shot but a couple of wins and we might cause a bit of trouble for the rest of the teams.”

Unlike the men’s event, there is one team out in front ahead of everyone else in the women’s. Jennifer Jones, the 2014 Olympic gold medallist, moved to 4-0 by cruising to victory over another Winnipeg squad skipped by Kerri Einarson, who dropped to 2-2 after losing both games Thursday.

The win clinched at least a tiebreaker spot for Jones. The team’s final round-robin game against Ottawa’s Rachel Homan (3-1) could potentially be a battle for first place and a bye into Sunday’s final.

“We’re pleased with our start for sure, we’ve got two big games left,” said Jones. “It’s just about getting better with each game, with each shot and really getting a handle on the ice which I think we’re on our way to doing,” said Jones.

In the sixth draw’s other match, Val Sweeting breezed by another Edmonton team skipped by Kelsey Rocque 6-2. The victory put Sweeting into a tie for the third and final playoff spot with Einarson and Tracy Fleury of Sudbury, Ont., at 2-2.

The 2016 Home Hardware Canada Cup completes round-robin play with draws Friday at 8:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. (all times CST).

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 2016 Home Hardware Canada Cup, go to www.curling.ca/2016canadacup/tickets/

This story will be posted in French as soon as possible at www.curling.ca/?lang=fr