Team Einarson carry bubble momentum into Humpty’s Champions Cup

The bubble in Calgary’s WinSport Arena has been a case of keeping up with Kerri Einarson and her team from Gimli, Man.

Team Einarson kicked things off in February successfully defending the Scotties Tournament of Hearts title and the skip followed that up capturing the Canadian mixed doubles title with Brad Gushue. They’re now in it for the long haul down the final stretch with back-to-back Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling events followed by the world women’s curling championship then Einarson and Gushue jet off to Scotland for the mixed doubles worlds.

So far, so good this week in the Humpty’s Champions Cup as Team Einarson became the first to clinch a playoff spot after climbing to a 3-0 record with an 8-2 victory over Japan’s Team Satsuki Fujisawa during the sixth round-robin draw Friday.

Einarson was already up 2-1 in the third when she fired one of her trademark runback double takeouts to score a critical three points. It was deja vu in the fourth as another runback double from Einarson put the pressure on Fujisawa, however, the 2018 Olympic bronze medallist also made a highlight-reel shot raising and pinballing her way to land on the lid for a single.

After Einarson matched with a point in five, Fujisawa needed to make an Einarson-esque runback in six to potentially score big. Her shooter over-curled though and only eliminated one to leave behind two counters for a steal that led to goodbye waves.

Fujisawa fell to a 0-2 record and is on the brink of elimination.

The Humpty’s Champions Cup is the first of back-to-back Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling events featuring 12 of the top men’s teams and 12 of the top women’s teams from around the world. The series is testing a new rule at the Humpty’s Champions Cup called the no tick zone. A rock touching the centre line, in the free guard zone, may not be moved off the centre line by the opposing team until the sixth rock of the end.

Elsewhere, Ottawa’s Team Rachel Homan improved to a 2-1 record with an 8-7 victory over Russia’s Alina Kovaleva (1-1). Homan, who gave birth to daughter Bowyn just three weeks ago, sustained her lone defeat so far in the opening draw Thursday and played pretty well but left Einarson, what else, a game-winning runback double takeout to score three for the 6-3 victory.

Team Tabitha Peterson of the United States grabbed their first win of the tournament defeating Switzerland’s Team Elena Stern 6-4. Peterson pulled even to a 1-1 record while Stern slipped to 0-2.

In the lone men’s game, Switzerland’s Team Yannick Schwaller topped Team Jason Gunnlaugson of Morris, Man., 8-3. Schwaller is now at 2-1 while Gunnlaugson dropped to 0-3.

The event is closed to the general public. Round-robin play continues Friday at 6 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. local time on Sportsnet East, Ontario, Pacific and Sportsnet ONE with online streaming at Sportsnet Now (Canada) and Yare (international).

Pool play runs through to Saturday with quarterfinals and semifinals on Sunday and both finals set for Monday. The Princess Auto Players’ Championship begins Tuesday.

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