Epping emerges from Trials roller-coaster ride a winner

OTTAWA – John Epping rode the roller coaster and survived a winner. The Toronto skip endured a game of ups and downs, and twists and turns to edge world champion Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., 6-4 with a steal in the 10th end in the second draw of the the 2017 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Curling Trials at Canadian Tire Centre Saturday evening. In the third end, Gushue crashed on a guard on his final delivery. allowing Epping a hit for three to jump in front 3-1. In the fifth, Epping tried to navigate a rock quarry but came up short giving up two and all of a sudden Gushue was out in front 4-3. Then in the 10th, Gushue’s final shot, a raise to the button, came up a hair short giving Epping, who also skipped a team at the 2013 Trials, the win. “The first game out there can be a bit of a roller-coaster ride, and it was, but it was good on our side,” said Epping, who thought having to face the hottest curling squad on the planet in the first game was actually a good thing. “Probably the best start we could have had, especially trying to figure out the ice, the rocks and just getting used to the atmosphere. “I’ve got three (Trials) rookies that have never experienced that. It was pretty neat out there tonight, the atmosphere was pretty electric. For them to be able to settle in, and against Brad was great. So if you happen to lose that one, I mean, it’s OK. But obviously a victory is huge for us.” Epping told his team of third Mathew Camm, second Pat Janssen, lead Tim March, alternate Charley Thomas and coach Jim Wilson to embrace the event and enjoy it. “There’s nine top teams in the world, there’s only going to be one winner. There’s a lot of great teams that are not going to have winning records. So you really have to enjoy this week and that’s what I really wanted them to know.” Although the win was important for the team if they hope to represent Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Epping put the triumph in perspective.

From left, Dawn McEwen, Jill Officer and Kaitlyn Lawes of Team Jones keep an eye on the game. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

“We’re 1-and-0 atop the leaderboard, but I was on top of the leaderboard last time after Game 1 and lost six in a row,” said Epping with a laugh. “So, I know it can change. You’re playing the best teams in the world.” Gushue, who was supported by third Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant, lead Geoff Walker, alternate Tom Sallows and coach Jules Owchar, admitted his final shot was a tough one but because the team’s allotted time was about to expire he threw it a touch too hard. “I’m more disappointed in the rest of the end, to see six, five missed shots before I came to throw, we never had a chance for two, not even a sniff at any point. We’re halfway through the end and we’re just trying to score to go to an extra end where our odds are at best one in 10.” In the other men’s game, Mike McEwen scored three in the seventh to down fellow Winnipeg resident Reid Carruthers 7-3 in their opening game. “I’ve said it a couple of times it was nice to get that game out of the way early,” said McEwen of playing his friend. “I guess it’s a good thing if we play him again later on. It means we’re both in the thick of things. They’ve had our number in a lot of matches and they tend to play well against us, and I thought we were that much sharper and picked up on the ice out there.” On the women’s side, defending Olympic gold-medallist Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg rebounded from surrendering a steal of three to Edmonton’s Val Sweeting in the first end to steal three of her own in the ninth in a 9-6 win. “I’d obviously like to have a couple of shots back,” said Jones, who wrecked on a guard on her last shot of the first end. “You’re going to have those games where you find a way to win and that’s one of those. We said at the fifth end break (when they trailed 5-3) let’s find a way to win and we did.” Krista McCarville of Thunder Bay, Ont., a 2016 Scotties Tournament of Hearts finalist, scored deuces in the third, sixth and eighth ends en route to an 8-4 win over 2017 Scotties runner-up Michelle Englot and her Winnipeg rink. McCarville, who reached the Trials by being the first qualifier from the Home Hardware Road to the Roar in Summerside, P.E.I., last month, said it was important to get off to a good start. “Just to be confident out there and to learn the ice. Build our confidence for the next day,” said McCarville. “At a few of our spiels we’ve struggled in our first game, so to go out there and to feel good with the ice and confident sliding and hitting the broom and just shooting the right way is really important.” The 2017 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings continues with draws on Sunday at 9 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (all times EST). Live scoring, standings and statistics for the 2017 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings are available at www.curling.ca/scoreboard/ TSN/TSN2 and RDS2 will provide complete coverage of the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings. CLICK HERE for the complete schedule For ticket information for the 2017 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings, CLICK HERE. This story will be posted in French as soon as possible at www.curling.ca/2017roaroftherings/?lang=fr