November 19, 2012
Homan, Koe are Grand Slam champs
By BRIAN SMILEY, QMI Agency
BRANTFORD, ONT. - One team ran the table, the other finally got a monkey off its back. Both teams are now Grand Slam champions.
Playing at The Masters Grand Slam of Curling event this week in Brantford, Ontario's Rachel Homan went a perfect 8-0, including an 8-3 win over Manitoba's Chelsea Carey in the final at the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre, claiming the women's championship.
On the men's side, Alberta's Kevin Koe defeated British Columbia's Jim Cotter 7-5, ending a streak that has seen Koe and his team lose six straight Grand Slam finals.
"My team was unreal," said Homan, who won a silver at the world junior curling championships in 2010 and is just getting started in the women's ranks.
"We really followed our game plan and followed through with everything we were trying to accomplish this weekend. It was really nice to win that final game."
The Homan rink, which includes Emma Miskew, Alison Kreviazuk and Lisa Weagle, won their first six games at The Masters by a combined score of 42-15. It wasn't as if they were playing against patsies either as they beat big-name curlers Cathy Overton-Clapham, Laura Crocker, Eve Muirhead, Sherry Middaugh, Shannon Kleibrink and Tracy Horgan.
The team's toughest match came in the semis when it edged Scotland's Muirhead 5-4.
After blanking the first end of the final, Homan got a single in the second. She was then able to steal a pair in the third end when Carey's attempted draw to the button hit a guard out front.
Carey did get two back in the fourth to trim the lead to 3-2 but Homan got those two right back in the fifth.
Facing a house full of rocks in the sixth, Carey stayed alive with a nice draw to score one.
Leading 5-3, Homan scored three in the seventh with a great final shot and after that the teams shook hands.
"It's unbelievable," said Homan of the victory. "We're super pumped about that win right now."
For Koe it was more about relief.
"It's great," said Koe, whose resume includes a 2010 Brier and world championship along with a silver-medal finish at last year's Canadians.
"Losing six finals is a lot over the years. It feels good to finally win one of these, for sure."
Koe's team was almost as dominant as Homan's, as it went 7-1 during the event. Included in that record was a tough 6-5 win against Kevin Martin, the Olympic gold medallist, world champion and four-time Canadian champion, in the semifinals.
In that game, Koe had to make a great draw for the extra-end win and, after the measure, he was onto the final.
On Sunday, down 2-0 after Cotter stole two in the first, Koe came back with a pair of his own in the second end.
Cotter went up 3-2 with a single in the third and after the fourth was blanked, Koe roared back.
In the fifth end, Cotter tried to draw around rocks at the top of the house but instead he crashed. That allowed Koe to get a piece of the eight-foot on his final shot to score three and take a commanding 5-3 lead.
After watching Koe steal one in the sixth, Cotter trimmed the lead to 6-5 with a deuce in the seventh end.
Holding the hammer in the final end, Koe needed a draw for one in the final end. The shot was light right out of the hack and only a great sweeping job from his teammates got the job done.
"It was a little nerve-racking," Koe said of his final stone. "They went on her coast to coast and I was a little nervous, I'm not going to lie."
Koe credited his team with great play all week in helping to earn the victory.
"We played well," he said. "You can't win one of these without playing well. We made the key shots when we needed to and that's what you need to do at these events."
This event was somewhat rushed when Rogers Sportsnet took over the Grand Slam of Curling earlier this year. With less than an ideal amount of time to get things together, both winning rinks praised the local organizers as well as the event's new owner.
"Great event, just outstanding," Koe said. "They did a great job. Short notice for organizing this all and it came off without a hitch."
"It was awesome," said Homan.
"They switched up the draws this year and did something different, incorporating TV. It was amazing. No event is perfect but Sportsnet is just unbelievable coming on board with what they're doing.
"Every single player from the player's association is so pumped for what they're doing."
IN THE HACK: Just hours before the event got underway on Wednesday, Sportsnet announced a $1-million bonus to any men's team that captures all four of the Slam events this season. "It's nice. We're the only team with a chance," Koe said, before adding that it won't be easy. "Like I said, we've been at this for years trying to win one of these, let alone four, so I'm not going to get too excited about it yet." On the women's side, there are just two Slam events and should Homan win the other, she and her rink would pocket an extra $100,000 . . . Koe won an even $20,000 this week, while Homan pocketed $20,500 . . . The next Grand Slam event is The Canadian Open, Dec. 12-16, in Kelowna, B.C.