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Gushue and Fleury post victories to remain unbeaten at curling trials

Skip Brad Gushue of St.John's N.L. discusses a shot with his team during draw 10 against team Dunstone at the Tim Hortons Curling Trials in Saskatoon on Nov. 24, 2021. The Canadian Press/HO, Michael Burns, Curling Canada

Brad Gushue earned a win Wednesday morning to move closer to securing a playoff berth at Canada’s Olympic curling trials while Brendan Bottcher’s side was all but eliminated after picking up a fourth loss.

Gushue remained unbeaten at 5-0 after posting a 9-4 win over Matt Dunstone at SaskTel Centre. Bottcher, the reigning Brier champion, fell to 1-4 after dropping a 9-7 decision to defending champion Kevin Koe.

Read more: Dunstone reunites with junior teammate after late lineup change ahead of trials

A first-end deuce gave Gushue early control and he put the game away with three points in the eighth end. His St. John’s, N.L., rink has got results despite one of the tougher early schedules of the nine men’s teams in the field.

“We’re playing good, we’re not playing great,” Gushue said. “We’ve been fortunate, I’m not going to lie to you. We’ve had some misses from skips that we haven’t seen that often.

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“So there’s been a little bit of luck. There’s (also) been some timely shots by us.”

Gushue’s side threw a whopping 97 per cent overall, helped by Geoff Walker’s perfect game. Dunstone’s foursome shot 92 per cent.

In other early games, Brad Jacobs defeated Jason Gunnlaugson 7-5 and Mike McEwen edged Tanner Horgan 6-5. Jacobs was alone in second place at 4-1 with McEwen and Koe next at 3-1.

John Epping, who was idle for the morning session, was in fifth place at 2-2. Gunnlaugson and Horgan fell to 1-3 and Dunstone, the lone Saskatchewan-based entry in the field, remained winless at 0-5.

The top three teams at the end of round-robin play Friday night will advance to the weekend playoffs.

A 5-3 record was good enough to make the cut at the 2017 trials in Ottawa. While too soon to mathematically eliminate any team, a fourth loss will make weekend play a long-shot at best.

Read more: With Olympic berths on the line, intensity runs high at curling trials

Five women’s teams — including defending champion Rachel Homan — started the day with three losses apiece.

In the afternoon draw, Homan — who missed the podium at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games — dropped an 11-5 decision to Laura Walker that left her clinging to faint playoff hopes at 1-4.

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Walker vice Kate Cameron was cleared to play after a COVID-19 PCR test came back negative, Curling Canada said in an email. Cameron missed Monday’s game due to an unspecified illness and the team was off on Tuesday.

Tracy Fleury, the lone unbeaten women’s skip at 5-0, needed an extra end to get by Jacqueline Harrison 9-6. Jennifer Jones beat Kelsey Rocque 8-5 and Krista McCarville used a single in the 10th end for a 6-5 win over Kerri Einarson.

Jones was alone in second place at 5-1 and McCarville and Einarson were tied at 3-3. Casey Scheidegger, who had the day off, was 2-3 with Walker and Harrison.

Rocque (1-4) joined Homan in last place.

Tiebreakers and semifinals are set for Saturday. The winners of Sunday’s finals will represent Canada at the Feb. 4-20 Beijing Olympics.

Koe also missed the podium at the 2018 Games. Canada’s John Morris and Kaitlyn Lawes won gold in mixed doubles, a discipline that made its Olympic debut in Pyeongchang.

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