Grand Slam of Curling: First-time champions Flaxey, Edin take The Masters
I guess that's what you'd call announcing your presence on the scene with authority. Winning the first Grand Slam event of the season, in your first ever Grand Slam finals appearance.
Not that skip Allison Flaxey was an unknown in curling circles. But casual fans - those who would, despite not following the game closely, know the name Rachel Homan - might not have known just who Flaxey was before the 2016 Masters, in Okotoks, Alberta.
Flaxey and her team - third Clancy Grandy, second Lynn Kreviazuk and lead Morgan Court are now really, really on the scene after beating Team Homan, the top-ranked women's rink in the world, 6-3, in Sunday's final.
It's true that Homan's team wasn't exactly on fire for most of this one - a sizzling, tight port shot by third Emma Miskew was the foursome's big highlight of the final and that came in the first end - but you have to take advantage of your opportunities and that's exactly what Flaxey's team did. They did it as they stole one in the first, making it a total of 17 steal points in their last four games of the tourney.
And they did it even as they fought their own struggles.
That was in evidence in the key end of the final; the fourth. Flaxey had overcooked a take-out with her first stone of the end, but when Homan followed with her own miss, Flaxey bounced back with a perfect knock, removing a lonely Homan shot-stone and scoring four with hammer, to jump into a 5-2 lead at the break.
A couple of singles were traded after that, and a Flaxey take-out ended it in the eighth.
Now everybody knows the name Allison Flaxey.
Is this the beginning of a beautiful relationship? Flaxey's rink, like Homan's, hails from Ontario and a pretty good rivalry might be building. If anyone thought Team Homan was a shoo-in to win the province this season after last year's shocker of a loss to Jenn Hanna, well the 2016 Masters may have shown that's far from a done deal, although Flaxey-skipped teams had lost nine of the previous ten match-ups to Homan-skipped squads.
"We owed Rachel one. She's gotten us the last few times," a beaming Flaxey told Sportsnet just after the win.
MEN'S FINAL: TEAM EDIN DOWNS TEAM JACOBS
Niklas Edin and his team from Sweden knocked off the Brad Jacobs rink in the men's final, 5-4 in an extra end, making Edin the first male skip from outside Canada to be a champion in a Slam.
"It means the world to us," the two-time global champion told CBC Sports after the win. "We've been goin' hard for The Slams for a few years, now."
"Now we're a good curling team for real," he said with a bit of a smile.
This was a crock pot cooker kind of game, with not a lot to get too excited about through the first half, but it sure took on a different flavour as the crunch drew near. And like slow cooker beef, the final result was delicious for curling fans.
Both Edin's team and Jacobs' took turns in failing to capitalize during the mid-ends, with Jacobs missing a draw for two in the fourth and Edin handing the point right back in the fifth when he missed a fairly routine shot and coughed up a steal.
After that, things ramped up and the narrative changed from missed opportunities to "oh my goodness" shooting, the skips trading haymakers in an eighth end beauty and then doing it again in the extra.
That's where Edin got the better of Jacobs with two terrific shots - his first an insanely good one where he bumped a Team Jacobs stone up to angle back one of his own, that stone kissing another Jacobs rock just outside the twelve foot, which redirected Edin's raised stone straight back removing a Jacobs counter biting the top of the button (See video, below). Jacobs picked that one out with an angle raise and Edin then sank a beauty of a draw behind cover. Jacobs was faced with an even tougher angle raise takeout with his last and missed, with Edin stealing the winning point.
ICYMI | Here was Team Edin's shot of the game. Unbelievable! https://t.co/7DWLGbXxDV
— CBC Olympics (@CBCOlympics) October 30, 2016
For the Jacobs crew, taking dead aim at a bounce-back season after a less than stellar 2015-16 season, it's a hard gulp as they fall to a fifth loss in six Grand Slam finals over the course of their history. Still, if they continue to play well and go deep into events, that will suggest they are on track to perhaps pluck the juiciest peach of the season; a win at the Canada Cup and the Olympic Trials berth that goes along with it. Jacobs and his mates have mapped out their schedule in order to be arriving at peak form in time for that event, in Brandon Manitoba, November 30th - December 4th.