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Gushue edges Jacobs to remain unbeaten at Canada's Olympic curling trials

SASKATOON — The latest edition in the so-called Battle of the Brads rivalry showed why the Olympic champion skips are essentially a pick 'em every time they play.

SASKATOON — The latest edition in the so-called Battle of the Brads rivalry showed why the Olympic champion skips are essentially a pick 'em every time they play. 

Brad Gushue edged Brad Jacobs 7-6 on Tuesday at Canada's Olympic curling trials in another tight matchup that could be a preview of Sunday's final. 

"This is tiring," Gushue said after the extra-end battle. "You can't expect any different playing those guys or playing a lot of the teams here this week. You just want to have the control of having the hammer in the last end or extra end and fortunately we did."

Gushue moved into sole possession of first place at 4-0 while Jacobs fell to 3-1 in round-robin play. They have split their last 10 matchups with Gushue holding a slight 29-27 edge on Jacobs in their all-time head-to-head battles. 

Jacobs, who won Olympic gold in 2014, scored the first deuce in the sixth end to tie the game at three but Gushue rebounded with a pair of his own in the seventh. 

Gushue settled for a single after trying a tap and stick for two and Jacobs followed with a deuce in the 10th end.

In the extra end, Jacobs made a nice hit and roll to sit frozen under cover. That forced Gushue to make a draw and the 2006 Olympic champ hit the four-foot ring for the victory.

"Not our sharpest, not our best, but lots to build off," Jacobs said. "You've got to expect to lose a game or two or maybe more in a field like this. Chins up and looking forward to tomorrow's game."

The Jacobs' front end had a remarkable game with lead Ryan Harnden at 100 per cent and E.J. Harnden throwing 99 per cent. The team threw an impressive 94 per cent overall in a losing effort while Gushue's side was at 90 per cent.

"You could throw a really good one and get a poor result or you could throw a really good one and turn the tide," said Gushue third Mark Nichols. "It's fractions of an inch and lucky for us it's been on our side the first four games."

In the women's round-robin draw in the evening, Kerri Einarson handed Jennifer Jones her first loss of the competition after a wild 10-9 game. 

Einarson blew an early six-point lead and Jones stole a single to go up in the ninth before Einarson iced it with a pair in the 10th end.

"I would say we got on a roller-coaster and we started to go chuck-chuck-chuck-chuck and we got to the very top and then the ride happened," said Team Einarson coach Heather Nedohin. 

"And then we got across the end of the line. We looked up and you got to have some cotton candy at the end of the ride."

Tracy Fleury remained unbeaten by topping Rachel Homan 8-3, Kelsey Rocque edged Casey Scheidegger 6-5 and Krista McCarville defeated Jacqueline Harrison 6-4.

Fleury took over first place at 4-0 while Jones fell to 4-1 and Einarson moved to 3-2. 

Harrison dropped to 2-2 while McCarville and Scheidegger were 2-3. Laura Walker, who was idle, sat at 1-3 with Homan and Rocque.

Gushue felt chances were "really good" that he'd meet Jacobs again at this event. But he was also careful not to get ahead of himself, noting a poor round-robin game at the 2017 trials proved costly as they missed the bye and fell to Mike McEwen in the semifinal.

"We faced the top four seeds to start out and to come out 4-0, we can't ask for much more," Gushue said. "But the key for us now tonight is to make sure there's no letdown going into the rest of the week."

The top three teams in the nine-team field will advance to the weekend playoffs. The top rink goes straight to Sunday's final while the second- and third-place teams meet in a Saturday semifinal for the other berth.

In other games, John Epping defeated Matt Dunstone 9-7 and Jason Gunnlaugson outscored Tanner Horgan 11-6. Brendan Bottcher earned his first win with a 10-2 rout of McEwen, who fell into a third-place tie with Kevin Koe, the idle defending champion, at 2-1.

After eight draws, Epping was 2-2, Gunnlaugson and Horgan were 1-2, Bottcher improved to 1-3 and Dunstone fell to 0-4.

It was Gunnlaugson's first-ever victory at a trials after being shut out in his first appearance in 2009.

"Two oh-fers would have sucked," he said with a laugh. "Winning is so much better than losing so it's nice to get a win."

While not officially eliminated, Dunstone's fourth loss essentially seals the fate of the lone Saskatchewan-based team in the field. He had a stone pick on an open draw for two against Epping and missed a raise double-takeout with his final throw in the 10th end.

"It's just kind of the way it's been going," Dunstone said. "I missed the last shot by half an inch too. That sums it up perfect."

The round-robin schedule returns to a three-draw daily format on Wednesday at SaskTel Centre. 

The winners of Sunday's finals will represent Canada at the Feb. 4-20 Beijing Olympics. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2021. 

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press

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