SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. – It's Fabulous Friday at Credit Union Place and with the weekend's finals looming large, each and every game at today's $370,000 Sun Life Financial Players' Championship is enormous.
This morning, John Epping of Toronto crushed 2011 world champion Jeff Stoughton of Winnipeg by a 7-1 score in just five ends. Now armed with a 4-1 won/loss record, Epping has defeated Kevin Koe (7-6 in an extra-end last night) as well as the pre-event number one, Mike McEwen plus brand-new world champion Glenn Howard. As Fast Eddie Lukowich might say, "Zowie."
Team Epping, if you recall, started off the season with quite a bang but by December they had fallen off the radar, and they eventually missed qualifying for their provincial championship. Now, clearly, the squad is back in form.
Meanwhile, McEwen has won three games in a row following an awful 0-2 start. This morning, the Winnipeggers upended mighty Kevin Martin of Edmonton by a 6-4 count, dropping the defending Players' men's champs to 4-1.
In addition, Howard has lost another one! Team Niklas Edin of Sweden, who have New Brunswicker James Grattan skipping in Summerside, beat the champs 5-3 for their first win of the week. Team Howard is now 3-2.
Things are getting interesting, folks. But that's not all.
On the women's side, Winnipeg's Cathy Overton-Clapham is undefeated at 6-0 and is booked into the semifinals. What's the secret to their success, one wonders? Perhaps it's the coach – some guy named Russ Howard (photo at left)?
Russ' daughter Ashley Howard plays front end for Cathy O, in case you didn't know.
Meanwhile, the sideshow between Edmonton's Heather Nedohin and Sherry Middaugh of Coldwater, Ont. continues. As of Thursday evening, Nedohin had rebounded from her 0-2 start and posted three straight wins, the latest an 8-6 victory over winless Chelsea Carey. At the same time, Middaugh's foursome dropped a 6-5 decision to Stefanie Lawton (4-2) of Saskatoon and that put Middaugh at 2-3. That's not a good place to be when you're trying to snatch the 2011-12 Canadian Team Ranking System (CTRS) berth into the 2013 Canadian Olympic trials away from, er, Heather Nedohin.
But lo and behold, there was a sole women's match on the ice late last night in Summerside... and it featured Middugh versus Nedohin. And in a must-win game for Middaugh her troops claimed a 4-2 victory, and that leaves the two Olympic dreamers with 3-3 won/loss records heading into today's games.
But forget Jennifer Jones, folks. After a 1-2 start the defending Players' champs are now 4-2 after a thumping of Scotland's Eve Muirhead. And why would you forget Lawton, since her squad is 4-2 as well?
So... which of today's remaining games are our picks for Titanic status? In other words, those that are simply Not To Be Missed?
11:00am ET: Jones vs Overton-Clapham – for those who still love the rivalry
2:30pm ET: Stoughton vs Gushue – Stoughton has ex-Gushue third Mark Nichols going up against his old skipper
2:30pm ET: Howard vs Martin – the classic head-to-head battle
2:30pm ET: Koe vs McEwen – the head-to-head battle of the future?
2:30pm and 6:30pm ET: Women's Tiebreakers – if necessary, of course
6:30pm ET: Howard vs Koe – the Brier final redux
As for the playoffs, the women's semis (and any required men's tiebreakers) get underway Saturday morning at 7:30am ET, with the women's final at 12 noon ET on Global Television. The men's semis take place Saturday night at 6:30pm ET, with the men's final on Sunday at 12 noon ET on Global Television.
Capital One photos copyright by Anil Mungal – click on images to increase viewing size