THUNDER BAY – Tracy Fleury and Rachel Homan have been gunning for each other all week at the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling Tour Challenge.
The two teams have won all six of their games, but that will change on Sunday, when they meet in the women’s final, a rematch of the 2015 The National championship which Homan captured, edging Fleury 5-4.
For Homan, it’s a chance at an eighth Grand Slam title, while Fleury is still seeking her first, having only advanced as far as the semifinals in an event once since her lone trip to a championship match.
Fleury, a Sudbury native who made the move to curl out of Manitoba this season, changing teams in the process, doubled up Manitoba’s Kerri Einarson 6-3 on Saturday night to advance to the final, while Homan needed an extra end to knock off American Nina Roth 5-2 in the other semifinal.
“It feels really good,” Fleury said after the match. “I’m really proud how the team played today. I feel like we keep getting stronger each game and we just keep improving as the season goes on.”
Opening with the hammer, the veteran skip scored on in the first and stole another in the second, jumping in front 2-0 on Einarson, a two-time Manitoba provincial champion.
“Getting a two-point lead, that definitely helped us get the momentum on our side, I would say,” said Fleury, eager to try her luck in another championship against Homan.
“It’ll be a tough game for sure, so we’ll just go in with the same approach as our other games. It seems to be working, so hopefully we’ll come out strong tomorrow.”
There will be plenty of Northern Ontario content to cheer for in the men’s final, where Sault Ste. Marie’s Brad Jacobs will be after his fourth Grand Slam title – his first Tour Challenge championship.
He’ll take on Alberta’s Brandon Bottcher, the runner up at last year’s Tim Hortons Brier, after doubling up Switzerland’s Peter De Cruz 6-3, scoring two in the sixth to put the game out of reach.
“This has been such a great bounce back weekend for us, after a really disappointing results in the last event. It’s nice to be able to show some resiliency and come out here and play strong. We’ve played very well all week and hopefully we can carry it into the final tomorrow.”
A three-ender in the second set the tone for the match, Jacobs making a tough shot on his final stone to score the triple.
“It got everybody on the team a little excited and fired up. It’s always exciting to make a shot like that early in a game and get everyone’s spirits up. It was a great team shot. Sticking the shooter there for three was a bit of a bonus, but we’ll take it.”
Bottcher, who curled out of the Tier 2 side at last year’s Tour Challenge, lost 5-4 to Jacobs in the round robin, but is ready to make amends in Sunday’s final.
“We’ve had a great week and the guys are playing really well. We chose not to play all the Slams this year, so for us to come to this one and have some success is awesome,” said Bottcher, who knocked off crowd favourite Glenn Howard 5-2.
“We were just making all the simple shots really well, and we played a whole pile of them because we were usually a sliver ahead of the other team.”
In Tier 2 play, Scott McDonald of Kingston, Ont. knocked off American Mark Fenner 7-5 and will meet Saskatoon’s Kirk Muyres in the championship game. Switzerland’s Elena Stern will take on Japan’s Sayaka Yoshimura in the women’s final. Yoshimura downed Toronto’s Hollie Duncan 7-4 in one semifinal, while Stern crushed Kristen Streifel 9-1 in the other.