It was a battle set to fit the bill. Canada’s Team Brad Gushue is among the top of the field at the 2022 Pan Continental Curling Championships and was up against the undefeated South Korean team.
But a game that could have gone the distance ended in just six ends at WinSport Event Centre in Calgary on Wednesday afternoon. Canada (3-1) landed four- and five-enders and cruised to an 11-3 victory against Team Byeongjin Jeong of South Korea (3-1).
The win catapulted skip Gushue, vice-skip Mark Nichols, second E.J. Harnden, lead Geoff Walker, alternate Nathan Young, coach Jules Owchar and national coach Jeff Stoughton into a four-way tie for first place after serving South Korea with the first blemish on its record.
The game was also a lesson in how quickly an end can turn around – for better or worse.
Canada leads the field in hammer efficiency, so a South Korean force would have been a significant accomplishment, and it looked very much like a reality on Jeong’s last shot of the end. A well-placed guard would have hurt Team Gushue’s chances of putting up more than a single point.
But it all changed at a moment’s notice when South Korea’s guard over-curled, and Canada had an opportunity to play a runback for as many as four points. As one of the best teams in the world, Team Gushue takes advantage of its opportunities more often than not, and such was the case again in Calgary. Canada took a surprising four-point lead in the first end and did not relinquish it.
South Korea gave up another stolen point in the second end but slightly rebounded in the third when Team Gushue’s final draw was heavy, leaving a double for South Korea to score its first points.
“I’m surprised it got as lopsided as it was. Getting four in the first end, and then [Jeong] made a mistake in the second by jamming, and I think that took the wind out of their sails. I thought our team executed really well,” said Gushue.
Canada slowly built up the fourth end and was soon to up the ante. South Korea pulled the string on its final draw attempt, and Canada made a draw for five and a demanding 10–2 lead.
Young got his second taste of action at the event after being called into the game to replace Gushue prior to the fifth. Young threw lead stones and held the broom for Nichols, who moved up to skip rocks.
In the fifth end, a Canadian rock picked and suddenly, it looked like South Korea could get back into the game. However, the team weathered the storm and stole another point. South Korea scored a single point in the sixth end and conceded.
Young is taking in all the moments on and off the ice and will bring back a lot of knowledge to his team in Newfoundland & Labrador. But there is one particular piece of advice from Gushue that has resonated with him most.
“On the way up here, we were in the airport, and Brad said something that has stuck with me since. He said everyone’s best will be very similar. It’s the best teams that have the highest floor. They’ll know at the worst they can play, they can still be competitive. That’s something that’s really stuck with me since he said that,” Young said.
In other Wednesday afternoon action, New Zealand’s Team Anton Hood (3-1) joined the four-way tie after a 6-3 win against Team Randie Shen of Chinese Taipei (2-2); Team Korey Dropkin of the U.S. (3-1) also elevated itself into a share of first place with a 10-7 win against Japan’s Team Riku Yanagisawa (0-4); and Australia’s Team Jay Merchant (2-2) kept Brazil’s Team Marcelo Cabral de Mello (0-4) winless following a 10-2 win.
The 2022 Pan Continental Curling Championships continue on Wednesday with Canadian women’s Team Kerri Einarson (4-0) against Brazil’s Team Isis Oliveira (0-4) at 8 p.m. Mountain.
Live scoring, standings and statistics for the 2022 Pan Continental Curling Championship are available by clicking here.