The Canadian men’s team has locked itself into the final four at the 2022 Pan Continental Curling Championships.
Team Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., locked up a playoff position following its Thursday evening game at WinSport Event Centre in Calgary. Canada bested New Zealand’s Team Anton Hood (3-3) 10-5 and improved to 5-1 on the week.
As a unit, skip Gushue, vice-skip Mark Nichols, second E.J. Harnden, lead Geoff Walker, alternate Nathan Young, coach Jules Owchar and national coach Jeff Soughton could not have asked for a better game with a 95 per cent shooting accuracy.
Its opponents, led by the 22-year-old skip Hood, held their own during the game. But the longer it went on, the more it favoured Canada.
In the first end, New Zealand managed to force Canada to a single point for only the fourth time this week. However, Canada made up for it in the second end by stealing a point from New Zealand for a two-point lead.
New Zealand battled back in the third end. Canada played a hit-and-roll on its last shot, but the line call was off and it rolled too far. The error set up a double for three points, which New Zealand executed perfectly.
“They played pretty well, and they kept it close. We made a bit of a mistake in the third end with a bad line call and gave them a double for three, which they made. But they made some good shots and didn’t let us run away with the game,” Gushue said.
The angles were oh-so-glorious on Gushue’s first shot in the fourth end. He played a raise takeout to remove two New Zealand stones and sit four for Canada. New Zealand limited damage and made a double to sit behind the cover. A raise for three was in the cards for Canada, but the line was off, and the team took two points instead.
“I think we always felt like we were in control, even when we were down 3-2. It was just a matter of getting a deuce, and then we executed that. It looked like it could have been a four or five, but he (Hood) made some good shots. We got the lead back, and then it was just a matter of not making the same mistake that we did in the third end,” Gushue said.
The game started to transition more in Canada’s favour by the fifth end. New Zealand was chasing Canada and forced into playing some high-weight peels and doubles to varying degrees of success. In the end, New Zealand tried to draw precisely to the side of the button. While the shot was close, it didn’t curl toward the centre line enough, and Canada stole a point.
Canada forced New Zealand to a point in the sixth end and capitalized with the hammer in the seventh on an open double to score two. New Zealand was forced to a single point in the eighth, and Canada put the game away in the ninth end with a takeout to score three.
Team Gushue remains tied in the standings with two other teams that qualified for the playoffs on Thursday night. Team Korey Dropkin of the United States (5-1) and Team Byeongjin Jeong of South Korea (5-1) both picked up wins to earn playoff spots and earn their nations entries to the 2023 BKT Tires & OK Tire World Men’s Curling Championship in Ottawa. The Canadian men already had their place locked up as event hosts.
The United States defeated Australia’s Team Jay Merchant (2-4) by a score of 8-3. South Korea toppled Brazil’s Team Marcelo Cabral de Mello (0-6) by a 10-1 score.
The final seeding will be determined on Friday following Canada’s final round-robin game of the event when it takes on Team Randie Shen of Chinese Taipei (2-4) at 2 p.m. (all times Mountain).
“We’ve got to win, and we’ve got to do well in the draw to the button to get first place. That’s the goal, to make sure we get hammer in that first game and go from there,” Gushue said.
In the final game of the evening, Japan’s Riku Yanagisawa (2-4) defeated Chinese Taipei 10-1.
The 2022 Pan Continental Curling Championships continue on Friday, with Canadian women’s Team Kerri Einarson (5-1) starting the day against Japan’s Team Satsuki Fujisawa (6-1) at 9 a.m. It also takes on South Korea’s Team Seungyoung Ha (5-1) at 7 p.m.
Live scoring, standings and statistics for the 2022 Pan Continental Curling Championships are available by clicking here.